Today we are another step closer to Israel. We met with our shaliach at the Regency Hotel in Atlanta. A shaliach (pronounced with the guttural ch in the back of the throat), for those who aren't into the aliyah lingo, is a legal emissary of the Jewish Agency. They help you fill out all that fun paperwork and interview you before you make aliyah. And they also help stupid Americans get a first hand look at their life in Israel.
She's already 10 minutes late (but that is still early in IST-Israeli Standard Time). When she finally arrives, she babbles on in hebrew for a good 5 minutes before realizing I have no idea what she just said. The interview proceeds in a haphazard fashion while she jots down notes in hebrew. We're topic jumping like ADD school children and every 10 minutes we are interrupted by her ringing cell phone. I can barely keep up with the line of questioning much less get a grasp on how these questions have anything to do with making aliyah. Most of them just seem like nosy neighbor questions.
Before we know it almost 2 hours had passed already. We're doing more laughing and gossiping than interviewing at this point.
She goes on to tell us some interesting interviews she's had. Like the ancient orthodox husband and wife she interviewed 2 weeks ago. Apparently he'd forgotten to mention to his wife of 10 years that he'd been married three times before. I'm guessing that one didn't end well.
During the interview, she repeated over and over again that she thought we were such a very lovely couple, but seemed quite confused how a Southern Christian girl who has no plans to convert would ever be roped into moving to Israel.
Her: "So, yoooou vere born to de Jewish parents?"
Me: "No, I'm not Jewish."
Her: "So, when do you plahn to convert?"
Me: "No...no plans to convert. I'm happy in my faith."
Her: (Looking at DH) "Ahnd yooou are okay vit zat?"
Her: (Looking at me like a confused puppy) "Vat about de baybies?"
Me: "We're raising Jewish children."
Her: "Ehhh..." (She's still not convinced)
And while some may think this line of questioning is rude and taboo, not to Israelis! This is a perfectly acceptable topic of conversation. Just like your salary, how much you pay in rent, your political leanings and favorite sexual position. Growing up in such a hospitality driven society, I used to cringe at the thought of living amongst such rude people and thought I'd be eaten alive there.
Israelis think Americans are phony and hyper-sensitive while Americans think Israelis are rude and pushy. I've been exposed to both cultures and know better. While we just think of ourselves as polite, Israelis think of themselves as honest. It's a different culture and I'll have to continually remind myself of that fact. So if I come back to visit and you find me a little more hardened, don't take it personally blame it on my new found chutzpah.
A good link about the difference between Israeli and American society: http://www.israelpr.com/doingbusiness.html
I have also been devouring this blog: How to Be Israeli