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You have to pick one: US or Israel

It was a conundrum: Two passports, a divided heart and one stubborn Swiss airport bureaucrat


“Oh go ahead. Pick one,” I always say at passport control when I brandish my two passports (with a flourish), one American and one Israeli.

It’s easier than having to decide myself because living here and loving there have split me in two perfectly painful parts, and scar tissue may take a lifetime to form that bridge.

“Pick one,” I always say, while I slide the passports across the divide, through the little hole in the plexiglass window.

And always it’s the same: Yossi stamps US. Joey stamps ISRAEL and I am thus defined: An outsider looking through the door.

But then dafka at duty free in Basel, Glenmorangle tucked under my arm, Marie of the blue uniform, the gold locket, and the purple eye shadow asked “vut eez your nationalitee?”

And maybe it was the hour (early)

And maybe it was my mood (sad) but I said (with no flourish:)

“I don’t know.”

I handed her my two passports.

“Pick one.”

“Non. This is for statistical purposes. You must decide.”

I took a deep breath. Home a vague and fluid concept. My heart cleaved. Words in two languages swirling in my head.

I can’t choose. 

.אני לא יכולה לבחור

(It’s funny but when I go abroad I forget my English and lips are shaped by the rhythm and lilt of Hebrew. And It’s funnier still, but as soon as I land in Tel Aviv again, I become an American abroad.)

But now – for statistics – I have to decide.

And I look at my passports, both dark blue, the US thicker, and the Israeli three hairs wider, the same picture inside.

“Ok, does one get me a discount over the other? Because I’ll pick that one.”

“Non,” Marie laughed “but I think you just made your choice,” she said as I watched her key these letters in:


About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, Times of Israel's New Media editor, lives in Israel with her two kids in a village next to rolling fields. Sarah likes taking pictures, climbing roofs, and talking to strangers. She is the author of the book Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered. Sarah is a work in progress.
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