How did you come to the United States?: I was attending Tel-Aviv University
when I met John. I was working at the library and he got some books in
and out, and we started talking, started dating, and then lived together.
It was clear that if we were to get married that we couldnıt stay in Israel
because he couldnıt speak Hebrew well enough to lecture in Hebrew.
an Israeli citizen? No, John was an American. He was a visiting faculty.
In Israel, the university regulations are such that you cannot teach only
upper level, graduate degree people. You have to rotate and teach undergraduates
and in order to teach undergraduates you need Hebrew. Graduates can be
taught in English. So we knew that if we got married, Iıd have to come
that like? That was actually mixed because I wanted to get away from my
family and wanted to see the world. I was 25 and that in and of itself
explains a lot. But I was also really scared because the United States
was so far away from them. In addition I felt that leaving the country
was tantamount to betrayal of country and family.
have been a big decision, a lot of turmoil with that decision. The decision
was around the getting married because getting married meant Iıd have
to come here. So, yes, there was a lot of turmoil because getting married
was more complicated than just getting married and moving to the next
town. They say that love is blind and whoever said that was right on the
So you gave
up a lot to marry him. I did. More than I realized at the time. I think
that at the time, I wasnıt so clear on what I was giving up. It felt like
"Iım ready to get away". I was 25 and we had been living together
for two years, so I was very sure about my decision. But at the time I
was very much in love and he was just wonderful, wonderful. Leaving my
family also meant that I grew in wonderful ways that I would have never
So you got
married over there and then you flew over here fairly quickly? Yes, we
got married over there, and rather than have a big wedding, we had a very
small wedding. There were maybe 15 people, something like that. There
was my sister and her husband and two kids and my brother and his wife
and the two kids that they had at the time and my parents. About 15 people,
something like that. But we took the money and we went to Europe for a
month. I had never been to Europe, and almost everybody I knew had been
to Europe, so it was a big thing for me. I really wanted to go. I was
very willing to give up the fanfare of a wedding. So we spent a month
in Europe. We went to Italy, stayed in Italy for several weeks in several
different places then went to Holland then to England and then came here.
it like when you first got here? I was bewildered. Everything was big:
big distances, big cars, big meals. I didnıt know how to get around. We
shared a car, but on days that John had the car, because I had not yet
learned to use the public transportation system, on those days I felt
to my family frequently but I was unable to share the difficult parts
of my experiences with them and that made it particularly lonely.
you the most about coming to the United States? How separate people were.
There was no sense of community. Having grown up in Israel, there was
a sense of invasive community and here it felt as if there was nothing.
Neighbors barely said hello, people kept to themselves. That was shocking.
I didnıt have an easy way to meet people and that seemed very strange
especially since I regard myself as a friendly, gregarious person. That
we didnıt know anybody seemed really strange.
become a citizen? Yes, after three years. Because I was married to an
American, it was just three years, which was also a weird process. How
so? Well, there were things that I totally didnıt realize. For example,
one thing that I had to prove was that I was a good, upstanding citizen
so I had to ask friends to testify for me at the courthouse. I asked my
best friend at the time who happens to be a lesbian. I didnıt know that
gays and lesbians were prohibited from becoming citizens. She was newly
out and appeared in the courthouse to testify for me wearing cowboy boots,
tight jeans with a belt and large buckle, a vest and this very dyke-y
looking spiky haircut. But she was American born so I guess they didnıt
say anything. Then they asked John if, to his knowledge, I had had affairs.
How weird. It was. So that part was weird. The other part that was weird
is I had to demonstrate my knowledge of English and in order to do that
I had to write a sentence, "This is a house". That was it for
the process, but the internal implication was great.
did you go back to Israel? At first, I went every year, and then after
the girls were born, it was every other year, pretty regularly. Actually,
when my older daughter was two I had the younger one so I might have missed
that year. Almost everybody came over [to the US] at different times to
visit. My parents came, then my sister came, then my brother came. Then
it was every other year [going over there] until the kids got older, and
they were fed up with going to Israel. They were the only kids on the
block that said "We donıt want to go overseas!"
Do you feel
like youıve ever experienced discrimination because of not being born
here? It depends on how you define discrimination. If you define it as
not having gotten work or something, I donıt think so. But there were
many not so subtle nasty comments made. Comments like, "There are
enough people in California already". Or another I remember is while
working a booster at the High School I worked with a nurse who said that
she hated working in the nursery with the newborns, and I said, "Oh
that is something that probably many people love to do cause people love
to hold newborns". She said the reason she hated it is because there
were so many babies of all "these newcomers". Given my accent,
its Or things like, comments from people. I remember a dinner party with
university faculty people where you would think itıs pretty cosmopolitan.
Someone made a comment about how in the South people are not accepted
unless theyıd been born there and lived there for a hundred years. Of
course that meant that I could never belong no matter what. But you know,
I have a feeling that that lady would not have considered an American
Indian good enough to sit at her table. So I consider myself with good
company. So comments like that. Itıs not institutionalized discrimination,
but itıs very much there. You are left feeling bad about who you are and
there is nothing you can do to change that.
Do you feel
like thereıs been discrimination because of coming from Israel? Those
are comments about being foreign born but do you have any sense that there
have been any specifics because of being from Israel? I think peopleıs
feelings are pretty fickle. It depends on what happens politically. I
remember I had a plumber come after the Intebi strike. He was like, "Well,
you Israelis get your people out. Youıre good, you know, you donıt let
your people just rot there." On the other hand I find myself at time
being held "responsible" for decisions the Israeli government
makes. So the comments have been on both sides, probably equally so, so
I think its more that, there isnıt enough room in this country for any
more people. Itıs a mentality that says: now that weıre here, letıs close
Do you see
yourself more as Israeli or more American or does that enter in? Youıve
been here a long time now. I have, and that still is a really painful
place because Iım both. Iım very much -- my kids are American. They were
born here and they are American and they see themselves as American. On
their dadıs side, theyıre third generation. When I hear about Israelis
being killed, my heart goes out. Or when I hear of an act of terror, I
get terrified. When you speak of Israel, itıs not as if you speak of Holland.
Do you still
feel the loss of not being there? I really do. At this point, I miss not
having my family, and itıs not all positive, God knows. But I miss it
that my kids did not grow up with cousins. I see my sisterıs kids and
my brotherıs kids, theyıre good buddies. They find work for each other,
and they find girlfriends and boyfriends for each other. They recently
went traveling together, so theyıre good friends and my kids donıt have
that. Whenever my kids get together with their cousins, thereıs no history
in common. So I miss it for me, but I miss it also for the sense of family.
Also my family came to Israel -- my father came in 1927. People who have
been in Israel for that long, you feel as if your family came on the Mayflower.
Itıs that sense. And sometimes I miss not being able to speak without
an accent cause when I go to Israel, I speak without an accent, and here,
I canıt get rid of it. So thereıs a way you can just fit in there but
thereıs always something that makes you feel different here. Uh huh, Uh
huh. Itıs hard. Yea.
Do you think
youıll ever go back to live? I canıt imagine it cause my kids are here.
I donıt want to leave where my kids are, so no, I donıt see that, and
thereıs no way they would go to Israel, thereıs just no way.
I know there
are certainly Jewish customs that you keep, rituals that you keep. Oh
yea. Is there anything that is specifically Israeli that you celebrate?
Israeli customs are often intertwined with Jewish customs. There are however
small things that I do that are specifically Israeli like flowers for
the Sabbath are specifically Israeli. So I suppose there are things that
I donıt even think about, and that I just do them in a particular way
English back in Israel too didnıt you? Right. Yea, I grew up speaking
Hebrew but my undergraduate degree was in English and American Literature,
so I spoke English well. So you didnıt come here with a language problem.
No, no. With an accent problem, but not a language problem.
I know you
see that your kids are American, theyıre not Israeli but is there anything
about being from Israel that you want your kids to sort of hold onto in
some way? What I would like for them to have, and I donıt know that they
do even though there are times when Iıve tried to give that to them,
but the sense of being responsible for your community. Community service
is one thing. Also seeing yourself in relationship to those whom you are
with. An example might be when my daughter played softball, I remember
a particularly hot day when the kids were practicing. One mother had twin
daughters and she brought them some soft drinks. She did not bring anything
for the rest of the team members. Now that is incomprehensible in an Israeli
society. Either you bring it to all the players or you bring it to none.
Also, I guess thereıs a sense in Israel of political awareness. One of
my children has that. So I donıt know that Iıve done a real good job about
that. Sort of caring whatıs going on around you. Itıs very Israeli to
be very political. There isnıt anybody in Israel without a political opinion,
a strong political opinion. That is important to me. Maybe there are other
things that I canıt remember, but that 's what comes to mind.
donıt have a whole lot of other Israelis that you socialize with? Yea, I do.
So you did sort of develop a connection to a sub-culture? Yea, to Israelis
in my city. And there are things that are sort of done together. For example,
when Rabin died, one woman who had been in Israel brought a tape and she
just invited everybody to come watch the tape together. We sometimes get
together on Friday nights to have Shabbat dinner together and have an
informal sing-along. So yea, thereıs sort of an Israeli sub-culture but
half the people are married to Americans, so Or when the war was going
on, the gulf war, weıd get together to watch the TV and talk and who got
what news from whom. We often get together on Christmas day for obvious
Do you usually speak English or Hebrew? Hebrew. And sharing books
and things like that. Do you still read books in Hebrew? Oh, yea. Do you
get publications from Israel? Newspapers from Israel are very expensive.
The weekend newspaper is $5.00 a pop, and thatıs very expensive, so every
once in a while Iıll go to the news stand and just get the paper because
I like it. Also on the Internet you have the Hebrew paper. You get editorials
so I read that. I donıt regularly get periodicals, but I regularly get
lots of books. Israelis read a lot. They are obsessed with politics. There
are five daily newspapers in a country thatıs as big as New Jersey or
smaller. I think Israel has the highest newspaper publications per capita
in the world. People just read! So thereıs a lotWe also have a book club
that meets once a week. The Bay Area also has various Israeli cultural
events that at times we travel to together.