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If I were a Sabra

Maybe writing about my yearnings here is like attending a support group. I mean, I'm sure many of you feel the same shame I do when your resh gives you away, no?

Writing on an English-language website about wanting to be a Sabra is like dreaming of losing 50kg while eating bonbons in front of the TV.

If I truly care to be a Sabra or, at the very least, the next best thing (AKA an Israeli), shouldn’t I be doing something about it? Maybe I could be writing a Hebrew article for ynet (not ynetnews — the English version) while simultaneously running through fields of prickles in order to get a taste of the IDF experience.

On second thought, maybe writing about my Sabra yearnings here is more like attending a support group. I mean, I’m sure many of you feel the same shame I do when your resh gives you away, no?

Wishing you were a Sabra is a lost cause, of course. The ultimate online source of accurate information says:

Sabra (Hebrew: צבר‎, pronounced tsabar; ṣabra) is a term used to describe a Jew born in Israel.

So either you are a Sabra already or else you’re never going to be one.

Why I wish I were a Sabra

My reason for wanting to be a Sabra is deep and complex.

I want to be a Sabra because they are a bunch of super cool dudes and dudettes.

Sabras cross the street without a care in the world. They say “Yihiyeh beseder” (it’ll be alright), when us fragile foreigners are sure the world is coming to an end.

They wash dishes when guests at people’s houses. They don’t give a crap and then care like crazy. They are so damn smart, and when they aren’t? Lo nora. (Doesn’t matter.)

They sit in cafes drinking cafe hafuh and smoking. I bet even their clothes and hair don’t smell afterwards.

They are really into their friends and they go on tiyulim (hikes) all over Israel. And, of course, they can be found all over the world on wild and crazy trips.

They are just so zorem (go with the flow).

But best of all: Guys who are from combat units in the army just absolutely love sing-alongs, especially singing songs of the Land of Israel at the top of their Sabra lungs.

And all that with cool-dude sunglasses propped on top of their heads.

Plan A for becoming Israeli

Even if you could never be a Sabra, you could work on attaining characteristics associated with Sabra-ness and just maybe, become the next best thing — an Israeli.

Here are points that, if followed carefully, could lead you in the direction of becoming an authentic Israeli:

  • Move to Israel — Don’t worry, no commitment required. Afterwards you can leave. It’s part of being Israeli.
  • Get your teudat zeihut (ID card) — Don’t even think you could ever be Israeli on tourist/student visas. You need the documentation to prove it.
  • Learn Hebrew — Behatzlaha.
  • Speak Hebrew even though it’s embarrassing.
  • Add Arabic words to your Hebrew.
  • Use a lower tone when you talk.
  • Never look confused no matter how much you have no idea what’s flying.
  • Never look self-conscious.
  • Wear your sunglasses on the top of your head (this is one of the most important points.)
  • Learn Israeli music — Which is amazing, so no sacrifice required here.
  • Learn to understand Israeli humor – That was a joke. You’ll never get it.
  • Learn the country, beyond Google Maps.
  • Hate Israelis — I admit, that’s not unique to Israelis.
  • Extremely important: Always make it look like whatever you’re doing is effortless.

As you can see, there is a fine balance here of culture, intellect, emotions and faking it.

Yum! No, I don't actually like the sabra fruit but I'm trying to sound Israeli. (Photo by yours truly)

Plan B for becoming Israeli

I know. You still think you’ll never really be Israeli. But I knew this would happen and so I prepared a Plan B for all you (I mean us) lost hutznikim.

You’ll want to write this down:

To become Israeli, have children in Israel, raise them here, give them names like Ma’ayan, Yogev, Mayim and Eliyehonadaviyaruchamiya and live your Sabra dreams vicariously through them.

I’m sure your children won’t mind — as long as you don’t open your mouth in front of their friends.

If I were a Sabra

I will never be a Sabra. I actually will probably never feel like an authentic Israeli either. Yeah, I’ve got the glasses-on-the-top-of-my-head thing down pat. I love Ehud Banai and I even read books in Hebrew.

But for some reason, when talking with most Israelis, I am just waiting for them to point a finger at me and say: “Impostor! I can see you trying to do a proper resh. And I noticed you had a look of confusion on your face a little earlier. That was a dead giveaway.”

But I still love/hate looking up to them, and so I’ll finish this piece by sharing an all-time favorite Israeli song. It is called the Sticker Song and the words are all quotes from Israeli bumper stickers compiled into a song/poem written by David Grossman and performed by Hadag Nachash. Even the video is genius.

And for those interested in reading the words in English, here is proof that something gets lost in translation.

Israel is complicated. Being Israeli is a feat, and being a Sabra is impossible.

Aval lo nora. Hakol bestalbet.

About the Author
Deena is a new mother, a project manager and a writer living in Jaffa.