Proud To Be An American Israeli: A Response To The Response

After reading both Hannah Dreyfus’s and Aryeh Younger’s honest and legitimate claims regarding their personal feelings towards aliyah, I felt it was time to jump on the bandwagon and present my opinion on the topic.

I identify myself as an American Israeli. Not an Israeli American. Definitely  not as just an Israeli.

I live in Israel, but yet I use Swiffer wet mops over sponga (if you don’t know what sponga is then g-d bless you. May you stay forever naïve) to clean my floors.  I live in Israel, but yet I wear heels to weddings. I live in Israel, but speak English about 96% of the time. I live in Israel and do not wear Aladin pants, or eat chummus, and no, I do not plan on wearing a mitpachat when I get married (calm down, I will cover my hair).

Do I think Israel is one of the top ten most beautiful countries? No. Do I wake up every morning and look out the window and say “wow. Listen to the beautiful sounds of those two cars having a honking fight?” Not really. And no, I will never bring the dust of Israel with me when I go on vacation.

I live in Israel frankly because I am a Jew.

I get constant remarks such as “you are such an American”. Which is obvious after talking to me for half a second or even looking at me. But so what? Since when did being called an American become such an insult to recent olim? Yes, I am American and I basically have it written on my forehead and honestly I do not plan on changing that.

Being Israeli is a culture, being Jewish is a religion. I believe the two terms get confused too frequently. Just because you live in Israel does not mean you need to do an automatic 180 from American to Israeli and give up the lifestyle you feel comfortable living in.

Contrary to popular beliefs, I do not live in some shack at the side of the street. And for your information the floors in my apartment are not speckled. I plan on moving to an American community once I complete college. I plan on implementing the “English only” rule in my home. At the risk of sounding like a total snob I will and am placing constant orders from J.Crew and Anthropologie.

However, I feel justified doing this because at the end of the day I am living in Israel. I made one of the biggest statements there is to make by leaving America. I left my family and friends behind and miss them to no end. I declared that I am leaving the familiarities, mannerisms, norms, and social cues that I have come to know and love to move to a country that I am getting to know but instantly loved. I didn’t do this for the applause or to receive the Nefesh B’Nefesh red carpet welcome, I did this because Jews belong in Israel. Simple as that.

I live in Israel because this is the Jewish homeland. Love it or hate it, it’s Israel where Jews belong, not America.

I live in Israel because this is where the future of the Jewish people will take place.

I live in Israel because this country is a down right miracle and I was not willing to watch from the sidelines any longer.

I live in Israel because I do not want to raise my future children in a country where they need to ask themselves if they identify themselves as an American or as a Jew. I want to raise them in a place where both their nationality and their religion come hand in hand. The thought of teaching them the importance of Israel and raising them as Zionists while living in New York does not sit well with me. Living a contradictory lifestyle does not sit well with me.

I live in Israel because it is the Jewish country. Not the Israeli country, but the Jewish country. And if my condition for living in Israel happily is to live like an American than so be it.

I have not given up a single American value from the moment I got off of the Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight last August. I live like an American. I talk like an American, I certainly act like one and of course I still read the New York Times Sunday Style section, just online now. I do this because this is who I am. Just because I made aliyah does not mean I need to suddenly change to fit the Israeli framework.

I live in Israel for ideological purposes and because I truly believe it is the place for the Jewish people. Living in Israel gives my life purpose and reason which is indescribable until you yourself move here. But living in Israel does not mean you need to throw away or compromise your American lifestyle.

So yes, in short I am the Swiffer mopping, English speaking, chummus hating, J.Crew dressed twenty one year old oleh chadasha who couldn’t be any happier to live in the Jewish homeland, Israel. (But does miss America!)

DISCLAIMER: It goes without saying that this article is all generally speaking. Aliyah is a very personal opinion based on so many different circumstances and g-d forbid would I ever judge anyone. I am just stating my opinion and thoughts on the topic.

About the Author
Lottie Kestenbaum was born to British parents and grew up in New Jersey. To add to the identity crisis, Lottie made aliyah in August 2012. Hello tri-citizenship! She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Holocaust Studies at Haifa University and living in Jerusalem. Yes, it is a shlep. No need to mention it :-)