Upon Re-entry

We olim love bonding over how hard it is to come to Israel. We have to adjust to a totally different culture. Regardless of where we lived before, Israel is a unique place. One needs a totally different mindset–along with a different set of manners, expectations, vocabulary, and more.

What no one really discusses is how hard it is to re-enter our home countries once we have lived in Israel. I have only been an Israeli for 2 years, but on my summer visits “back home” I stand out like a sore thumb. I am a born-and-bred Bostonian. My kids were born and raised (well, until recently) in Boston. Why is it so hard to re-enter?

I have been back for nearly three weeks and have had quite a few laughs. So have the people I encounter on a daily basis. To help you out, should you find yourself in my situation, I have taken the liberty of listing 12 telltale signs (in no particular order) that you are an Israeli experiencing re-entry issues:

  1. You want to talk to everyone who rings you up at stores, fills your gas tank, and serves you ice cream. And, would it kill them to ask you where you have been for the last year? Did they not notice your absence? When I don’t go to my local market in Raanana for two days, Itzik sends a search party. Come on Trader Joe’s, step up your game.
  2. You want everyone’s advice. When you order at a restaurant you do not want them to say “OK” when you recite your order; you want them to tell you if you chose the wrong dish. Every good Israeli waiter knows that he must weigh in and berate your choice if it is not the best on the menu.
  3. You are stressed when someone doesn’t accelerate immediately when a traffic light turns green. You may even honk. Which is odd…in Israel it makes you so angry when people honk in this very same situation; here in the civilized world, you are the honker.
  4. You forget that you can indeed take a right on red. Whoops. Now they are honking at you.
  5. You can’t park without scraping a curb, a parking meter, or another car. Your rental car seems too big, in fact all the cars seem too big.
  6. You think everyone you talk to knows the word stam. Or ein ba’ayah (no problem). And you say it. Often. In fact, you pepper all of your sentences with random Hebrew phrases. Did you do this in Israel?
  7. When someone mentions lice, you no longer cringe. You actually hug the child who has fallen prey to the insects, and you offer to help with the combing.
  8. When you go to take a shower, you let the water run for ten minutes before you step in.
  9. When there is a line at Starbucks or Target, you walk right up to the register, inadvertently ignoring said line. There were, after all, about 12 inches between the register and the next-in-line customer. If they didn’t want you to cut in, they should have moved closer.
  10. At the supermarket, you thank the cashier for taking the items off the conveyor belt and bagging for you. You forget that it is in their job description…
  11. On your way into Target, you smile as you open your bag for the employee who is returning the carts to the front of the store. He looks at you quizzically but glances in to be polite. You thank him.
  12. What is the “chip”? You still hand your credit card to the cashier to swipe, or you try to swipe it yourself. The huge ‘Do not swipe, use the chip!’ sign baffles you. You stare at it with your mouth open and say with your very obviously-American accent, “I am not American. I do not know what this is.”
  13. All summer long while away, you listen to Israeli music; you crave any connection to the culture you left behind.

When I am in Israel, there is nothing I miss more than my life in the States. When I am in the States, I know I drive everyone nuts with stories about how life is in Israel. I have come to realize that when you leave a place, it is then that it feels like home. When a part of that country’s culture stays deep within you, no matter where you are, it means it is your home. I know I am lucky to have two such homes, and — more importantly — I know that I am a source of laughs for Americans and Israelis alike.

About the Author
Denise is a mother, a teacher, and someone who loves all things Israel. She even married an Israeli. They decided to move to Israel this summer with their three daughters. They cannot wait to see what the next chapter brings.