Israel, no matter where I go, who I meet, everybody always has something to say about this little country, sometimes people don’t even know where it is, but still think they know so much about it. Like this one time when I was travelling in Australia in 2006, I met a few young people who were completely sure that Israel is in Asia.
Being Israeli outside of Israel can be quite a mission, you can never know how people will react when they hear you are from Israel, and you always need to prepare yourself for getting into a long political conversation. I guess this is the reality when you come from the most famous place on earth, as if it’s not enough that it is the ‘Holy land’, it is also where the most famous conflict in the world is taking place, but I don’t want to get into politics. I only want to describe the complexity of being an Israeli abroad.
So… yes, as an Israeli (at least the way I feel it) you always need to come prepared, you never know where and when it will hit you. And I have many examples. First there is always anti-Semitism, and people who, let’s say are not a big fan of Israel and Jewish people. Unfortunately this phenomenon still exists, and sometimes (not a lot but it does happens) I find myself in situations when I prefer not to mention where I am from. Back to my trip to Australia, there was this one time when I checked in a hostel where there was a sign that they don’t accept Israeli travelers. Luckily I am also French; my French passport definitely saved me many times when I was abroad.
Other incidents are always related to the political situation in the Middle East, in Israel, or to the Jewish people. Surprisingly (or not) I am writing this blog in a ‘great timing’ after the attack in Brussels in the Jewish Museum. Unfortunately, most of the people don’t know, but anti-Semitic crimes happen quit often, nowadays mostly in France, where just a few hours after the attack in Brussels, two innocent Jewish men were beaten almost to death outside a Synagogue. These crimes happen, once in a while, but usually you won’t hear about it, unless it is dramatic and catastrophic like the incident in Brussels last week. Hate crimes are terrible, and it really doesn’t matter who the victims are. Yet, as an Israeli and a Jewish woman, living in Europe while these kind of incidents are taking place, it doesn’t feel so ‘great’, and there are even times when I am worried about my personal safety.
Another issue of being Israeli abroad is the way other people see you. Just because I am an Israeli, it doesn’t mean I am the Israeli ambassador or representing the state in any way. People often don’t make this distinction and often will start a conversation while blaming me for all the actions of the Israeli government and army. These situations can be very complicated, and I find myself in the position where I need to ‘defend’ my people even though sometimes it contradicts my political views and beliefs. It can also happen the other way around, when people who admire Israel won’t stop sharing this admiration with me. (For me it is just my country. I don’t really need this ‘support’) This is exhausting, when you meet an American, Spanish, French or British person, you don’t start to make accusations and discuss politics, and you also don’t talk for hours about how much you love their countries. I am not trying to disrespect the political and social situation, but sometimes I wish I could just go into a room, say that I am from Israel without hearing any comments right after.
Being an Israeli and Jewish, is not simple, in Israel and abroad alike, for me it is quite a challenge in certain situations. After one year and a half in the Netherlands I am still learning how to cope with it. This blog is dedicated to my experiences as an Israeli woman in the Netherlands. Please don’t hesitate to comment or to ask me anything. That’s all for the first time, until next time!