Are you Jewish?

If you ever came to Israel, you had the chance to experience the quite stressful questioning at the airport. You know it’s part of the security process, they are probably trained by the best secret agency in the world etc… so you deal with it. But what you don’t expect is this exact same procedure when ever you meet someone! Let’s try to reproduce a typical conversation between a local, be it a student, your bank teller or a bus driver, and a new comer:

– Shalom, XXX (an Israeli name you’ve never heard and you’ll never managed to remember so you’ll try to ask discreetly to your friends but they don’t have a clue).

– Shalom, Naomi (or Laura, or Steve, doesn’t matter).

– Where are you from?

– xxx. (Doesn’t matter)

– And what are you doing here?

– Studying/Working

– But why did you come to Israel? Why here?

– I wanted to have an experience abroad / I love the country / Why not? / Eeeeeuuuuh

– Wait, are you Jewish?

This is the trickiest question and yes is actually the easiest answer. You will simply get a “Aaaah now I understand! Did you make aliyah (term describing the immigration of a Jew according to the Law of Return)? Welcome! We’re happy to have you here.” Smile. “But still: Why would you leave Switzerland to come to live here? Antisemitism?” (I told you, that’s the easiest answer…).

Say no… My non-Jewish friends here could tell you that better than me but basically the questions will never stop until you tell them the whole story, that you are here because you met your Israeli boyfriend during a trip in India / during a previous stay in Israel (- Why did you come then?) / online… But you’re not married? And you don’t have kids? Why? Are you going to convert? Are you planning to get married abroad? You know a lot of people do that, they go in Cyprus for a day, like the son of my butcher, he met this girl in … My friends are so tired of having to tell their whole life to complete strangers that they sometimes answer that they are Jewish!

My answer is even more complicated, but only when I think that I will see the person another time and they worth my honesty, otherwise I just say yes. In that case, I answer “My father is Jewish.” Which means that officially I am not. But I am still Jewish enough to make aliyah since they use the same definition as the Nazis and for that only one grand-parent is enough. Then come another million of questions: So how do you consider yourself? Why did you want to come? Were you raised as Jewish? Will you convert? So did you make aliyah? And so on and so on but I’ll save my answer for another (hopefully) interesting post. Little to say that it generally takes at least half an hour to arrive to the point where they say “It doesn’t matter anyway, welcome we’re glad to have you here.”

And then it goes on:

– So where do you live?

– Shkhuna X (the name of a neighborhood).

– Do you have roommates?

– No. (Yes is normal so you might not have the other questions.)

– So how much do you pay?? (Indeed, here it’s totally normal to talk about money with complete strangers.)

– Eeeeuuuuh (I’m still European, I feel really uncomfortable to answer this type of questions.)

– Come on, it’s normal here, everyone ask!

– Well, I know but still… Anyway, 2000.

– What?? That’s super expensive!

– Well, you know, I work so I can afford it. / it’s only 400 euros, it still makes me laugh / I come from Switzerland, you don’t know what expensive means.

– Oh you work? How much do you make?

I am not even joking. They ask all the time. And if you have an other European around to support you for an hopeless explanation that we really don’t talk about money, they will just reply to you that it’s okay, here everybody asks, no one care and it’s normal. I will generally try to get out of this situation by saying something like “Stop being such a Jew!”. Welcome to Israel!

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