They say an oleh is truly settled here when he starts buying Israeli deodorant instead of importing American roll-on via generous relatives, or when he finally settles for chunk light tuna instead of white albacore.

For sure, a girl’s showing signs of improvement when she commits to an Israeli hairdresser.

I walked into Effi’s Tiberias salon the other day looking for a cleanup. Since it’s summer, the season in which I let my hair grow long to remind myself of the blonde I used to be, I told him I didn’t want him to take too much off. Just enough to remind myself I’m a hot mama, not a Hanson brother.

I hadn’t had a haircut in more than six months; the last time was during an unexpected visit to New Jersey in December for my grandmother’s funeral. The day before the funeral, my mom treated me to a cut and blow (the words of which alone transform me from kibbutznik to suburban chic). Since then, however, I’ve been letting my hair grow out, compensating for the split ends with ponytails and braids. Until the other day, when a co-worker chuckled and asked me, “So, you’re going for the Princess Leia look now, huh?” At which point, I realized it was time for action.

I had tried out Effi once before, a few months after we made Aliya. He’s the regular hairdresser for both of my husband’s parents, and, get this, once employed Israeli celeb pop singer Moshe Peretz in his salon. I should have been really excited when Effi told me Moshe Peretz was due into his salon any minute to give Effi himself a cut.

Moshe Peretz (photo credit: Jorge Novominsky/Flash90)

Moshe Peretz (photo credit: Jorge Novominsky/Flash90)

Had I known who Moshe Peretz was, and had I not been reeling from what Effi had told me only minutes before, maybe I would have giggled. Instead, I was distracted and tingly in a way a woman approaching 40 can only be when a man who is not her husband or her five-year-old son gives her an accidental compliment.

As I sat down in his chair, I had told Effi I wanted to keep my hair long, but other than that he had free rein. Effi looked me up and down through the reflection in the mirror, paused, and told me what a big change he could see in me since the last time I was in.

“Really?” I asked. “How?”

“You don’t look so American anymore,” he said, working on his English. “When you were here last, I thought to myself, ‘This woman is so stiff, so square.’ You wouldn’t let me do anything. Now, look at you.”

A year ago, I would have been insulted. Instead, I took inventory. I looked at myself in the mirror. What was he talking about? I was wearing my standard pair of Old Navy Jeans, sporting the wannabe adorkable red glasses I bought at Cohen’s Fashion Optical right before we made aliya, and my hair was growing in Zac Hanson circa 1997. True, I was wearing the new lemony top I had bought on sale from Azrieli’s Forever 21 store, but I can’t imagine one shirt made in China sold at a Tel Aviv chain store geared for teenagers and hookers could really make much of a difference.

What did he see in the mirror?

“I see it happen to people all the time,” he said. “They come to me fresh off the boat. And then a year or two later you can see Israel all over them. Their hair gets lighter. They buy funky clothes. This country gets into them. It…”

He struggled for the English.

“It makes them more alive?” I asked.

“Something like that,” he answered.

I sat with it for a bit. The old me – the one fresh off the boat – would probably have ruminated about his comments the entire time he cut my hair. But the me in the chair, the new me (apparently), could only shiver with delight as he snipped away the 12-year-old Zac Hanson and created a haircut suitable to the Israeli woman he saw in the mirror.

I felt sexy in that chair…and, I guess, more alive.

After he finished his work, I paid and took the sexy Israeli with me out the door, along with a bag-full of new hair products. I strutted my stuff down the Tiberias boulevard, flipped my hair from side to side, and with my eyes, dared anyone to try, just try to speak English to me.

I’m no tourist, my eyes said, sparkling. I’m no square immigrant.

I’m alive. Israeli style.