Saturday, December 1, 2012


It all started when my roommate told me that her fancy shampoo didn't work in this land, and the best stuff she has used is the cheapo caroline brand from superfarm (Israeli CVS). Sure enough, my fancy shampoo had not been working either and so I went out and bought 1+1 shampoo myself, and instantly my hair felt and looked better. The shampoo was harsh though, like all things here; it was designed to work with the hard Israeli water.

Still Life of Cat at Cafe in Brown and Beige, Emek Refaim
This whole soap debacle made me wonder. What is the Israeli landscape? What are nations, and how can someone look of that nation? Why do Israeli products have a distinct look, and how is it that Israelis can be spotted miles away? Sometimes now on facebook my Italian students post photos of their friends, and I think how perfectly they blend into their surroundings. But what does it mean to blend in?

When I lived in Milan, my father said I looked Italian. Blond and fair, I am not so sure if any Italian was ever fooled. But still, it is true: I did dress differently when I was there, adapted myself to both the weather and the culture and what was available. Waterproofed all my shoes, put on eye makeup everyday, drank espresso in the morning and ate a lot of focaccia.

In Israel, sometimes I can't make sense of it all. The Hebrew language, Israeli manners, Israeli bureaucracy, Israeli schedules and how everything here can be so last minute or take so long. I meet the children of Anglo parents, and sometimes they speak english perfectly, and sometimes they have accents. Sometimes they seem quite American, and other times they are meah akhoz (100%) Israeli. Sometimes they marry other anglos or children of anglos. But still, somehow, they know how to get around here and there. They can make sense of the land, they can blend in and they can speak Hebrew without an accent. They look Israeli. But how, but why? We have the same genetics, most likely. Their parents probably look like mine.

Israelis match the hard but beautiful terrain of Israel. Israelis just get it, they can make sense of this country and know how to make an intimidating waitress smile or how to get around a certain rule. Or how to look good in hiking clothes and how to survive on an Israeli salary. How to get from point A to point B and how to act during an incoming rocket. They know what to expect, or know not to expect anything whatsoever.

Finding a shampoo that works after almost a year of looking was a big deal to me. I finally felt like I was figuring things out, finding my place in society and what worked for me. Cutting my dependence on foreign goods. I felt like I was starting to blend into the Israeli landscape, knowing what to get. Tiny battles, sure. But significant ones.

And perhaps now I look a little more Israeli.

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