Israelis don’t like rootbeer

Do you ever notice how easy and acceptable it is to stereotype your own?

And how easy and acceptable is it to find yourself up in arms when “outsiders” stereotype us?

Of course, this is human nature and true of most ethnic, religious and gender groups.

It’s the classic rule: I can talk smack about my momma, but don’t you even think about it.

I stereotype Israelis. Especially since I moved here 2 1/2 years ago.

But what’s funny is the type of stereotyping I find myself responsible for is not your classic Israel bashing.

They’re so rude/impatient/loud/demanding. They’re always up-your-butt in lines. They all carry uzis.

Those aren’t stereotypes. They’re truths! Israelis will be the first to admit (loudly, and rudely) that lines are for friarim. Pushing your way to the front is why God gave us two hands. The third one is for our uzi.

I stereotype Israelis from a place of love, like one does when making fun of one’s brother…or oneself. But I also stereotype Israelis as a study, from a place of still feeling like an “inside outter.” Like someone who thinks she is supposed to fit in, but doesn’t quite yet. And perhaps never will.

This was very obvious to me while traveling last week in the U.S. with 8 Israeli born colleagues. Though working insanely hard, we had a great time. My colleagues, experienced travelers, still counted on me to lead them, inform them, and give them a bit of a navigation in a foreign country. So for me, the trip was an opportunity to finally feel like a grown up again — like someone who knows her way around. Someone who can order for herself in a restaurant; find her way around airport security.

An insider.

Traveling in America with a group of Israelis, however, also made me feel very American. So much so, I began to question my own identity. Who am I when I am in America? Am I American or Israeli? Or some strange hybrid better suited for a third independent country? (Uganda? Atlantis?)

I loved the cafes we lunched in; while they frowned at menus filled with burgers and sandwiches.

I sipped rootbeer satisfied, while they longed for tea with nana.


I spoke quietly and respectfully to our waiters. They demanded extra salad dressing in Hebrew.

They laughed at me. At my American-ness. And I at them. At their complete and utter Israeli-ness.

And then we laughed at ourselves

Since I moved to Israel 2 1/2 years ago, I constantly wonder where I fit in.

But then I remind myself that this is a question I’ve been asking for as long as I’ve been asking questions.

And for as long as I’ve been asking questions, I’ve been carefully observing myself and others.

Comparing myself to them. Comparing their behavior to mine.

Searching for the differences and the similarities.

Seeking harmonies. Identifying irritations.

This is what we do.

We humans.

With ease, we assign the harmonies to people who look and act like us, and the irritations to people who look and act different from us.

Until something happens to shatter the reliability of our stereotypes.

For me, this happened when I made Aliyah.

As I live among Israelis; and more so, as I become an Israeli, I’m busting my own stereotypes, and creating new ones.

But always defending Israel like she was my momma.

I can talk smack about her, but don’t you even think about it.

5 thoughts on “Israelis don’t like rootbeer”

  1. This is a perceptive and enjoyable exploration of the topic. In the UK we have millions of people who are british and not british at the same time. Sometimes they feel like natives of the land of their birth, but when they go back there, they feel British if you follow me. I think it takes more than a generation to feel completely at home in a country, although you can love living there. Does that cheer you up. I hope so


  2. I think some people always feel like this, Jen, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s what makes us curious. Tolerant, even. I’ve lived in the American South my whole life, and I still don’t feel like I fit in………until I drag some unsuspecting soul into a dive BBQ joint and force them to drink an extra hot Blenheim ginger ale. 🙂


  3. After 30+ years living in Israel, I can still say that many times I feel very “American” in my behavior and outlook compared to my Israeli friends and relatives. However, when I go back to the States to visit, I realize how Israeli I have actually become. I forget to keep a distance in the check-out lines at stores, wince at the over solicitous behavior of waiters/waitresses in restaurants (oops, they’re now called “food servers”), am in shock at the idea of menus for patients in hospitals and the bedside manner of the medical staff, and still awed by the “have a nice day” greetings and smiles from toll booth operators to postal workers. Today I actually pushed my way on to the Egged bus at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem along with all the others congregating in the doorway of the bus, standing firm to be sure I didn’t give the right of way to anyone! But I’m proud of my Israeli side that has taught me the value of community, going out of your way for strangers, and living every day to the fullest. Wishing you a gentle klita!


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