There are so many small cultural differences that you learn about when you move somewhere new. Years ago, we had an Israeli family that came to Potomac to work for a few years. They lived in our collection of townhouses and we grew very close to them.
For years, we hosted a large break-fast when Yom Kippur ended. We had many people from the community and we enjoyed breaking bread together.
One year, right after this family, Itay and Ronit, moved in, I was walking to shul on Yom Kippur morning when I saw Itay. I realized that I hadn’t invited them to the break-fast and I said,
“Do you guys want to come to breakfast?”
“Breakfast,” he replied. “Ha ha. That’s a good one.”
“Yeah, we do it every year and it’s a lot of fun. Come over later.”
And then I went to shul. Little did I realize that he was horrified. He said to his wife, “What kind of religious Jews invite us to breakfast on Yom Kippur? Who has the chutzpah to go to shul and pretend to be so religious and then to invite us to eat with them after shul?” He thought that I was inviting him to BREAKFAST on Yom Kippur and he couldn’t figure out what to make of us or of the community where he had landed.
Apparently Israelis don’t really do break-fast together. They finish the fast, eat something small and go to sleep. So when I invited him to break-fast there were two mis-communications. First the language was an issue and he heard breakfast instead of break-fast. And secondly, it wasn’t in his cultural understanding to think we were inviting them to a break-fast.
That evening, when our house was full and food was overflowing, we realized that our new Israeli friends hadn’t arrived. Josh went over to ask them what they were doing and to make sure they were coming. They were in their pajamas and completely bewildered. “We thought you invited us to breakfast! And we obviously weren’t coming to you for that!” they said.
And so this story has become a big joke between us. And a complete cultural mis-communication.
When we arrived in Israel and headed towards Yom Ha’aztmaut, Israel Independence Day, for the first time, a family invited us for a barbecue. We already had plans for our own barbecue in the afternoon and I explained to them that we couldn’t come. She said, “You have plans at night already?” And I said, “At night? What do you mean? At night there is a program and performance in the yishuv and then we all go to bed don’t we?”
And they had a good laugh over that.
Because now, as a seasoned Israeli, I know that Yom Ha’azmaut is a time to party! After the program in the evening, everyone goes home for a festive meal. Some people invite large groups of people over, while some just have a meal with their immediate family. But everyone eats a celebratory meal and most people include a grill in the process.
So now, as Independence Day approached this year, I was prepared. I knew to take a nap in the afternoon and to be well rested to stay up until at least midnight. And, my two oldest kids collected money from their friends and prepared plans to make their own fires and to grill out together. My second son’s barbecue ended up not going as planned, and we moved the festivities to our house where the boys ate meat, played basketball and had fun until midnight.
And my oldest son? Well, we aren’t going to discuss when he came in. That would show how truly Israeli I’ve become.
I didn’t capture a picture from last night’s fun, but here are all the boys at our barbecue today, including celebrating Matan’s birthday tonight and tomorrow.
Happy 66 Israel! Happy 14 Matan!
Here’s to a beautiful year ahead for Israel, for Matan as he graduates from 8th grade and sets out on a new adventure, and for us as we reach our ten year anniversary in Israel (our aliyaversary) and continue to take baby steps to fit in each day!