It’s the Fourth of July this week, and it has a lot of American Olim in a pickle, wondering whether their new identity as Israelis has room for BBQs and apple pie. For most Americans, the Fourth of July is not just about celebrating America’s independence; it’s about a day at the beach with your family followed by BBQ and fireworks. What could be wrong with bringing that tradition with you to Israel?
The more we think about it, there are many questions that arise in becoming a dual-citizen and there aren’t clear lines or borders about where one identity starts and the other stops. For Americans, the questions arise around Thanksgiving and perhaps the Fourth of July. For Canadians, it’s Canada Day, for Australians it’s Australia Day, for Russians it’s Novigod, and for many Olim what was once a vacation day, New Year’s Eve now just a regular day at the office.
It’s not just with holidays, but it’s also about sports! Should you encourage your American-Israeli kids to find a baseball league, or steer them towards “football” aka soccer? Some Olim opt to travel great distances to ferry their children to the nearest baseball field, which more often than not will be pretty far away. Do you adopt new hometown teams, “Ya’alla Hapoel!” or stick with rooting for the Yankees? During NBA season you might have some very tired kids who stay up all night to watch the games live…
Olim also need to make decisions about language. Some Olim families freeze Hebrew out of the house – they know that their kids get the Hebrew they need with their friends and at school, but they believe it is their job to make sure their children’s English is perfect. Others believe that since they chose to raise their children in a new country with a new culture and a new language, so let them speak whatever comes more naturally to them at home. But what about TV and books? Some parents hope that English TV will help reinforce the language, while others are fine with TV in any language; whatever the kids enjoy. Some parents will want their children to be on the correct English reading level for their age, while others will be satisfied if their children are up to par in their Israeli academics. And what about music? Do you let Galgalatz set the tone for Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew and even American music – or strictly play your Spotify lists of classic rock or your favorite hometown stations? Deciding which music to listen to isn’t easy, and that was the case before Static and Ben El moved to the USA and translated their songs!
Like any tourist arriving in Israel, most Olim continue to translate costs into the currency they’re accustomed to. You know you are becoming Israeli when you stop converting money in your head and when you stop getting frustrated at the difference in cost between Israel and your home country. For some people this happens quickly, for others, it takes a while. You eventually get to that point, especially once you begin earning most of your money in shekels. With time, you will also find yourself easily reading English words spelled in Hebrew letters – it is unanimously agreed that those words are the hardest to get used to. No matter how well you did in Hebrew School in North America, you will still have lots to learn once you get here.
Israel is a huge melting pot of cultures, and it’s natural to want to share your fond memories of good experiences from back home with your new community. Is there such a big difference between Americans celebrating the Fourth of July and Moroccans celebrating mimouna? All Olim bring a part of their culture with them to Israel, and your children have the benefit of being Israeli and still having a the cultural influences of their home country. Our advice is to try and give yourself the best of both worlds. Celebrate Yom Haatzmaut and the Fourth of July. Have some Moufletta with your Moroccan neighbor, bring them some turkey on Thanksgiving, and eat some good ol’ Israeli falafel.