People have described the experience of second-generation Americans as a bridging of two cultures. I’m not much of a bridge. I feel more like a fish. I grew up in a tiny Israeli pond, inhabited by my mom and dad, my big brother, and my little sister. Hebrew was the Official Pond Language. We listened to tapes of Israeli music and watched recorded Israeli TV shows. Our bedtime stories read from right to left.
Going to school was like swimming across a channel and into a shockingly cold sea. The language was easy to learn, but the culture was baffling. I couldn't seem to figure out how to come off as polite, friendly, impatient or whatever. I found that being Jewish meant something very different to my friends than it did to me. And while my classmates chattered about TV shows I’d never watched, I found that I couldn't share my favorite songs, jokes and movies with them. As I grew older, I learned to be myself in the ocean, fluently and expressively navigating those cultural currents. When I swam back home to my pond every afternoon, words like “corny,” “tomboy” and “problematic” trailed behind me like seaweed.
Because I was raised on recordings, my contact with Israel has often felt stagnant. I have never gossiped with girlfriends in Hebrew or seen Israeli musicians perform in concert. My family’s brief visits to Israel have left me yearning to cultivate my own identity there, not just as a cousin, a niece and a granddaughter, but as an adult with a fluent voice of her own.
And so? Having completed my BA, I'll be spending next year in Israel, working on a research project and figuring out my cosmopolitan identity. And you all get to read all about it!
(35 days left.)