American accent? You’ll never be a “real” Israeli

There it is. I’ve always suspected as much. But this morning on Channel 10’s “Orly and Guy” morning show, the eponymous Guy Meroz made it crystal clear.

Meroz, poking fun at himself, confessed that despite Cavaliers Coach David Blatt’s American accent and the fact that the Cavs are an American team, he could not be more proud of their 4-0 sweep of the Eastern Conference Final. The subtext: As if Blatt were a “real” Israeli.

Guess what, Meroz? He is. It’s not just that in 2014, Blatt led Maccabi Tel Aviv to a historic comeback against CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague semifinal game, proceeding to win the championship after beating Real Madrid. Blatt is an Israeli citizen, and as he told Bradley Burston of Haaretz, “I married a beautiful Israeli girl, Kineret, from Netanya. I actually even coached her – before we started dating, I want to specify.”

(Disclosure: I have more than a passing acquaintance with Mr. Burston – though my inability to wean Burston from placing empty jars back in the fridge may render the previous sentence wishful thinking or delusion.)

In any case, the Blatts have four children, two of whom have served in the IDF. But one who can produce the proper L with his tongue cleaving to the roof of one’s mouth, indicating that one has forgotten Jerusalem (Psalm 137:6), is considered more Israeli than one who cannot. The quintessentially Israeli experience of losing sleep over one’s offspring in green does not trump the ability to emit an R from behind one’s tonsils. Even in the eyes of an Israeli as progressive and inclusive as Guy Meroz.

Moreover, a beloved Israeli cousin with just the right Rs and Ls confessed to me that behind our backs, all native-born Israelis believe that all native-born Americans do not have the right to complain about anything that goes on here.

Because we can leave.

We can’t. Be it kids in the IDF, lack of affordable medical insurance abroad, old age, work, money, or just the feeling that we are organically, inexplicably, comfortably, and, yes, joyfully at home.

And as my friend David Leichman points out, it is particularly disconcerting to hear a 20-something Israeli accuse his parents of not “really” being Israeli, because – after all – we’ve been here longer than you have.

I propose that when there is finally, finally (but who’s kvetching) a constitution, the right to complain apply even to those Jews who hail from the US and Canada. Any of the aforementioned reasons for our inability to leave entitles us to at least that.

And Guy and all you other Eezrrraellees, may I ask that before you make a statement regarding the Israeliness of an American oleh, you first replace “American” with “Morrocan” or “Russian” or “Ethiopian.” If it’s not PC to say it about them, it’s not PC to say it about us.

About the Author
Varda Spiegel was Nurse-Director of the Bedouin Mobile Unit of the Negev, later serving as Maternal-Child Health Director for the Ministry of Health Jerusalem District. I am the author of Hershele and the Chicken Skates, was the English Web Content Manager for the Israel Museum and have translated from Hebrew to English for Haaretz and the ANU Museum of the Jewish People. I'm a grandmother, mother, and beachbum.