biscuit cheesecake, biscuits, desserts, Israeli, Israeli life

The Makings of a True Israeli

It’s official. We are now Israeli.

And we’ve got the biscuit (ביסקויט) cheesecake to prove it.

One of the many interesting things that we’ve learned about Israeli life and culture is that the country is very small. It’s not just geographically tiny, but culturally close-knit and insular. And we aren’t always on script.

The first time that we went to an Israeli wedding, we thought that we were on a movie set for a musical. Everyone there seemed to know the same dances and to know when to break out which moves.

At a nursery school party, the parents will suddenly and instantaneously break out in a collective song (while we sit in the background pretending we know what’s going on).

While we looked on, in a daze, when we first arrived here, wondering how everyone could possibly know and do the same things, we have gained some insight into the Israeli secret.

Eliav, in first grade, has a 20 minute class called “Song of the Week.” Each week, the teachers in the school teach the entire first grade class a specific song and they sing it every day until they’ve got it down perfectly. Well, no wonder they can all break out into collective song when they are grown ups. The same goes for many cultural phenomena and activities.

And one of these, and the one that has made us Israelis today, is the biscuit cheesecake. Now, if you live here, you probably know of what I speak. The ingredients include biscuits which are soaked in milk, cheeses, creamer, sugar and other nutritious items.

When we first made Aliyah, we thought that there must be a candid camera outside our house. There would be a knock at the door, we would answer it, and a sweet Israeli woman, or a group of children, would be handing us a delicious home-baked treat – often a biscuit cheesecake. Seriously.

We would scan the street for cameras, shrug our shoulders, offer our thanks, and then devour the cheesecake once inside. And the biscuits, themselves, always cracked us up. See, the year that we met on Project Otzma, I worked in a Brita water filter factory at Kibbutz Revivim. I would get up at 5 am to start working, and breakfast wasn’t until 7:30 or 8. To tide the group over, we’d drink weak tea and munch on these biscuits. And so, for 19 years, these biscuits have been dubbed “factory wafers” in this house.

And here were people generously offering us factory wafer cheesecake at every turn. Since our Aliyah, every time that we have had a baby, or enjoyed a brit or celebrated a house warming, our Israeli friends have arrived armed with factory wafer cheesecakes. The Americans bring tortes and cookies, chocolate-dipped pretzels and cakes. But the Israelis? Well, they’ve almost always got a wafer cheesecake on their hip.

And so, tonight, Josh declared in the kitchen, “We’re officially Israeli!” when Matan finished making our very first factory wafer cheesecake. Ironically, our first-born, totally Israeli kid made the cheesecake. Technically, we had nothing to do with it. But, it was made in our house, so we’re giving ourselves the credit too.

Yes, we’ve become Israeli in many other ways. We’ve bargained with the best of ’em; ignored the lice with the rest of ’em; fought our way through a check-out line at the grocery store; cut off that aggressive driver; and learned the words for diapers, wipes and vomit in Hebrew.

But this – well this really put us over the edge as true Israelis.

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