I arrived at Ben Gurion in the afternoon of the 17th of September, 2012. It was 38 degrees celsius. It was also Rosh Hashanah. Not a usual day to pick for someone moving to Israel but I wasn't going to be in Shul that year and I wanted to hear the sound of the Shofar before the sunset on the first day. Odd combination of religion, tradition and family practice. My very own מנהגים (customs).
For the past six years I have been on a journey to understand where I fit in this mix, a place that is rife with customs and practices that resonate, but are not entirely familiar or entirely comfortable. I having been trying to assimilate.
Lately however, I've been thinking that assimilation may be an old-world solution, a strategy born out of fear. Joining by assimilation. Identifying with, and adopting the Other. Good and admirable ideas in today's parlance of intersectionality - being different together in common cause.
But alongside the push for common cause - and I am all for common cause, just not being Borg - is an undertone that truly being "exceptional" is a bad thing. (Half of anti-semitic tropes are are plays on this theme - not providing any examples). I think being exceptional is a good thing - not a better thing, not better than other kinds of things, just a good thing. In fact, I think it may be the best thing about this country.
I thrive on variety, on difference and sometimes disagreement. I like that disagreement is not ruled out of the conversation, here. And I like that many of the cook books I have collected over the years -"Food of the Jews of Greece", "Persian Jewish Food", "Cucina Ebraica" , "The Kosher Cajun Cookbook", The Agudus Israel Sisterhood Cookbook" ... - represent a very long conversation about adaptation and difference. And I love that all of these things are all realized here in the collision of tastes in Israel.
האופי הלאומי (the national character) of Israel is that there is no national character. And as much as everyone talks about ממש ישראלי (really Israeli), it is too many different things to count.
So, in this seventh year of my journey, I am taking a sabbatical from the project of fitting in. I am putting the brakes on assimilation and moving toward adaptation. I am following my ancestors. I eat טחינה (tahini) and סחוג ירוק (s'hug -spicy coriander, garlic and chili sauce) on pretty much anything, but especially on שניצל (schnitzel) in a pita or סביח (sabich) . I've abandoned yoghurt for לאבנה (labane) but stick to קוֹטֶג' (cottage cheese) for lunch.
I make my own קניידלך (matzah balls) and add them to my chicken soup. I eat שקדי מרק (soup crackers) in מרק כתום (soup made with any orange vegetable) and continue to ask "Who names a soup "Orange"?" I baked butter tarts with currants and rhubarb pudding last week.
I am mixed. I like my food mixed. I like my people mixed.
I am starting a new project.