“Dirty Israeli from Hadera!”

Next month I am starting a new column over at Jewcy which will center on the experience of Israelis living in the United States. In preparation, I have been reflecting on my own experiences in the diaspora. Yesterday, to my surprise, an old memory bubbled-up to the surface of my consciousness.

In 1985, seeking economic opportunity my father moved our family from Israel to San Antonio Texas. I was nine years old at the time. I knew no English (other than “hello”, “goodbye”, “Miss Piggy”, and “shut up”) and I was confidant that the IDF could kick America’s ass.

A few years into our stay, my father took us out for a boat ride on a lake. When lunch time came I was horrified to find out that my sandwich was coated with mustered. I protested (loudly and repeatedly) that I had specifically asked for a sandwich without mustered. Whereby my father looked at me with frustration, snatched the sandwich from my hand, and threw it out into the lake.

Embarrassed and angered, I looked around to make sure nobody saw what had happened. When the cost was clear, I gaped at my stern old-man and cried:

“How could you do that? You dirty Israeli from Hadera! How could you do that?”

Not able to comprehend what they just heard, my mother and father looked at me with blank cow-like stares. As if it was not enough that the words “dirty Israeli” flowed effortlessly from my mouth, I had also inserted some Israeli socio-economic class discrimination for good measure. Was a dirty Israeli from Tel-Aviv superior to one from Hadera?

After the initial shock wore off, my mother began to laugh, while my father, visibly hurt by my words, intimated that if I continue to talk like that I would soon be reunited with my mustered-laden sandwich.

Years have passed since the sandwich incident (a classic inter-generational immigrant moment if there ever was one.) As a teenager I had returned to live in Israel, and in my twenties I moved back to the US. I have thankfully outgrown some of those early complexes, but the subject of Israelis living abroad (especially the US) still fascinates me.

Look out for my new Jewcy column starting in September.

5 responses to ““Dirty Israeli from Hadera!”

  1. great story!Una historia tan simple y compleja a la vez por todos los temas que toca en su trasfondo, como la discriminacion, como una sociedad moldea a un niño, perdida u busqueda de una identidad propia, etc…

  2. Is he really from Hadera, or was that just a way to insult him?

  3. As am I.

    Hey Roi (!!!)

    I just had lunch at a cafe here in Tel Aviv when your walks in to do the same. It’s been years since we talked (much less seen each other) and I immediately inquired about the two of you. I walked out of there and called Yoni, who was of course shocked to talk with me. He gave me the cliffnotes of life since the mid 90s and I did the same.

    Curiosity and a quick Google search brought me here. I was initially shocked to see the title of the latest post to your Blog, “Dirty Israeli from Hadera!”, but the story was amusing and brought out some old memories from the Lone Star state. Of course we share a similar history. Although I was seven and my vocabulary was limited to “Yes” and “No”, but who knows I may have known “Miss Piggy” as well (for the life of me I can’t remember what they call her in Hebrew, perhaps we actually use the same name).

    I hope you know who this is by now. Write me when you can, I’d love to catch up. I’ll be doing the same with your brother in a few days when he feels better. It turns out I live 2 blocks from your mom’s place.


  4. Looking forward to the column. I had the opposite experience, having immigrated to Israel as a child and then from Israel as a teen.

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