The Person Behind The Posts

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

GUEST POST: An Israeli-American Living in an American-Israeli City

This guest post was written by Anabelle Harari. Her bio appears below.

An Israeli-American Living in an American-Israeli City
(or it the other way around?)

This past fall I signed up for a photography course. It was run by an American who was completing her masters in Art Therapy. The advertisement read as follows:

“Are you a new immigrant looking to gain some photography skills? Come learn how to use photography as a method for exploring aliyah and liminality.”

I was sold.

While technically, I am not a new immigrant to Israel, I certainly feel like one. You see, I was born in Israel and shortly after my family moved to America. I grew up like any other Jewish kid in northeast Philadelphia- listening to the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, hanging out the mall on the weekends, and while at times I really wished I had blonde hair and my name was Ashley- I felt like I fit in.

However, there was one caveat- I was Israeli.

My family spoke Hebrew in the house, we never had goldfish or Doritos in our kitchen- only imported Israeli products, I listened to Eyal Golan on the way to school, and while all the other kids at my Jewish day school ate white bread sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly, I ate pita bread with chocolate spread.

Fast forward 15 years and I find myself in Israel once again. While I have been traveling in between Israel and the States for a while now- visiting friends and family, the obligatory birthright trip as well as a few other Jewish programs that bring wide-eyed Americans to experience Israel- I built a life for myself in America- not Israel.

However, when it came time for my boyfriend to study at a yeshiva- we knew the only choice would be to spend some time in Israel, specifically Jerusalem.

I arrived here feeling pretty confident. I speak the language- what more is there to really know about living in Israel? Turns out- a lot. Living in Israel has not only pushed all my boundaries, it has also made me realize how utterly American, I really am.

I enjoy my space, I enjoy central heating, but mostly I enjoy not being yelled at or being asked when I’m going to get married every other day. By American standards, Israelis are rude. They are loud, they are pushy, and they are extremely nosy (read: the married question coming from the guy at the grocery store).

And while this can become frustrating beyond words, I have come to actually appreciate this “rudeness.” The guy at the grocery store may be judging me, but he actually cares that I marry a nice Jewish boy. And the aggressiveness? After yelling at me about why I didn’t have a Tuedah Zeut card, the woman at the bank actually invited me to her home for Shabbat.

Does it make sense? No. Does it have to? Not really.

Being in Israel has made me value my American-Israeli upbringing. It has allowed me to take a critical look at the things I experience on a daily basis, and it also has made me appreciate this in-between state of being. Not quite American, not quite Israeli.

It seems that I have found the perfect place to be not quite this and not quite that- Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a liminal place in itself. It’s Israeli, it’s American, it’s everything in between jammed into one neatly packed city.

So now, when people ask me what it is like to live in Israel again, I give them my short yet complicated answer- it’s liminal. And I leave it that.

Anabelle Harari is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College. She is a sustainable food blogger and the community attache for BirthrightIsrael Experts. She lives in Jerusalem and you can connect with her @thelocalbelle.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny

Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny. I have no idea why I remember this phrase, which I learned as an undergraduate student 100 years ago. It's actually quite fun to say. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

What it means, in essence, is that the development of an embryo goes through all the same stages as its organism's evolutionary history.

I learned that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, not in evolutionary biology, where it seems to have been repudiated, but in a linguistics course. There, the theory states that the individual acquires language in roughly the same sequence in which the language originally developed. One echoes the other.

Which makes me think of cauliflower.


Every time I cut a head of cauliflower, I marvel at how each floret is a miniature version of the entire head.

It has a stem and a top and, if you cut the stem, you get smaller florets that also have a stem and a top.  And so on. And so forth. Whenever I cut a head of cauliflower, the words "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" echo in my head.

Then I think about Hashem and the amazing variety of fruits and vegetables He put into this world for us, with all their colors and smells and flavors and textures and sweetnesses and I feel happy.

Chodesh Tov.