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.