Wednesday, January 22, 2014

An Yidishe mame in every Israeli

Living in Israel is an experience in itself. The idiosyncrasy of the Israeli is very particular to say the least and you can spend your days complaining about it or simply embrace it, enjoy it, appreciate it and even laugh at it.

To describe Israelis requires more than words -perhaps the use of hand gestures-.  Israelis are referred to as Sabras (Prickly pear in English. The term is used to compare an Israeli Jew to the fruit's thick skin and tough exterior that conceals a sweet and soft interior), and they are nothing short of it. They are impatient, they yell, they speak with their hands as if about to hit you, they cut in line, they have no concept of customer service as we know it, but boy, are they there when you need them. You don't have to ask for advice to get it, and not because they are nosy, but because they care. You don't have to ask for help, because if they see you stranded on the road, they won't think about how late they will be to the meeting they are running to, but they will stop and help you. They genuinely care about others and have a unique way of showing it.

The first week we were here after making Aliyah (just three weeks before the High Holidays), we got invitations from total strangers to spend the Holidays with them. A few years back, my husband and I came for Passover break and after getting into a heated argument with a guy who cut in front of our car to steal our parking space in a crowded mall, he and my husband, hugged, shook hands and wished each other Hag Sameaj. Only in Israel.

Israelis are like siblings. They will fight, and yell and tell it to your face, but when it comes down to it, they will help you and care about you.

Israelis also have an Yiddishe mame complex. When it comes down to food, they "know" what's best for you. They won't let you have what you want, but they will tell you what you should be having and convince you until you have what they want you to have. It may be my ola chadasha face, but I may seem to attract "food advice" at every restaurant I go to. We went for pancakes this morning at the new Beit HaPancake. I like my pancakes plain with syrup on top. The store owner wanted to make them with walnuts and coconut, but he didn't just suggested it, he insisted they were so good I had to have them that way. At the gym , I never seem to be able to order my smoothie without "added" ingredients because they guy at the counter thinks what I order is too simple. At Pisgat Habaguette, even when I want a plate and not a sandwich, the owner insists on the bread being fresh and delicious and everything being better on a sandwich.

My experience last week at the super market put all my previous encounters with the Yiddishe mame to shame. I was buying cheese at the counter for a lasagna I wanted to make. After the counter attendant diligently searched through my grocery cart and replaced the pre-packaged cheeses I had gotten from the refrigerator with ones from the counter because as he said it, the ones at the counter are less expensive per kilo and better tasting, he "suggested" I put pesto in my lasagna. Now, I am not big on pesto sauce, so I told him I didn't like it. He opened his eyes as in disbelief and signaled me to wait (you know, the "rega" hand signal where they put all fingertips together upward) . He went to what I assume is a back kitchen, only to come back with a spoon full of pesto sauce, which he proceeded to feed me! I had no choice but to open my mouth and eat a spoonful of pesto sauce, because how dare I say no to an Yiddishe mame.

published article


  1. amazing. and hilarious story. so when are we eating pesto lasagna?