Sixteen years ago, we (my parents and my siblings) converted to Judaism as Germans and immigrated to Israel. Before leaving, a woman who worked for our local rabbi warned us that Israelis can be “very friendly,” even pushy.
We quickly discovered this for ourselves when, for example, someone we had never met would approach us at the supermarket and begin asking personal questions. “What does your husband do?” “Have you already bought an apartment?” “How long have you been married, and how many children do you have?”
In Germany, no one would dream of being so forward with a stranger.
Today, we live as any other Jewish Orthodox family. I ride the bus to work every day, all the men sitting in front, and the women in the back (I actually prefer that arrangement). Still, not everything was so easy to simply adopt. Most Orthodox women wear a wig in order to cover their head in a more fashionable manner. But I don’t want to cover my hair with “hair,” so I wear a headscarf.
What I like most in Israel is the diversity. In an average stroll down the street you are almost certain to come across Orthodox Jews, Christian nuns, Muslims, non-religious Jews, Filipino workers and foreign volunteers. At every corner you can hear a different language: Hebrew, English, French, Arabic, and also a lot of German! I meet German tourists almost every day on the way home. Jaffa Street in Jerusalem seems to me like New York City, especially when trying to make your way through the throngs of people!
What makes Israel unique
Israel is more unique and original than any other country. For instance, our bus driver recently stopped in the middle of the street and shouted to the baker on the side of the road: “How much does that cookie cost?” “19 shekels!” came the reply (I have to say, that was quite expensive for a cookie). “Bring me the cookie and I’ll give you 1 shekel!” The bus driver shouted. Fortunately, the baker was quick about it, somewhat stressed by the concert of horns behind the bus. He hops on the bus, is thanked for the treat, and we are on our way.
Where are you from?
The most common question one gets is: “Where do you come from originally?” When you come from Germany, there’s usually only one of two reasons: either you are the child of a Holocaust survivor, or you converted.
And once they know you are a convert, a mountain of new questions are presented. “Don’t we already have enough Jews in Israel?” “This isn’t an easy life, why would you take it on voluntarily?” Still, such questions often lead to a very interesting conversation.
With that, it’s time to get back to work. And then it’s home to my 8 children, which, by the way, is an outrageous number to most Germans. Here in Israel, where children are still considered the greatest of blessings, I am constantly hugged and praised as a “capable woman.” So, while it might not be easier, I much prefer to raise my 8 half-German children here in the Jewish state.
Have a wonderful Thursday.
Shalom from Jerusalem!