Israelis: just not as obsessed by the Arab-Israeli conflict as the rest of the world

First, today is my one-year blogaversary! I started this blog one year ago on February 22nd with a post about voting in the most fraught mayoral elections ever, and I'm happy to report that a year out Kiryat Bialik is still busily attempting to transform itself into Kiryat Motzkin. (Apparently, we're trying to do that by painting the large rocks that lie around our town in bright primary colors. Seriously. It's pretty hideous.)

If you want to make me really happy, go read some of my first few posts, including classics such as "This is a mop" and "Election Ads: Apply Directly to the Forehead." My second post ever-- how to make Israeli Salad-- is still one of the most visited posts on this site, thanks to all of the random people googling to impress their Israeli boyfriends (at least, that's my theory). When I google "Israeli Salad," I get my own blog as the second hit, which means that I now officially consider myself the world's second-most leading expert on the preparation of Israeli salad and, hence, by logical extension, on all things Israeli. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Hehe. Or maybe all this "I actually kept a blog going (more or less) for one year" euphoria is going to my head. (Plus, my husband says I come in fourth when he searches for "Israeli salad," which is just outside the medals. Darn it.)

Anyway, today I want to post about a phenomenon I've noticed since moving to Israel: Israelis are a lot less obsessed by every little shift in Israeli-Arab relations than the rest of the world. I mean, obviously Israelis care about "foreign policy" on a different level: if we go to war with Iran, nukes fall in our backyards. Hamas shoots missiles at Sderot and they land in our cousin's daughter's kindergarten. We launch a massive invasion into Gaza and that's our brothers, sisters, and children there on the front lines. Israelis have passionate (and polarized) opinions about politics and about the way Israel should navigate its relations with Arab nations and the Palestinians.

But so often, I see blaring headlines in American media about Israel and run to Israeli newspapers to find out the rest of the story.... only to discover that the lead news story in Israel is the finale of cochav nolad. For example, foreign media is currently obsessed by the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai. Israeli media has certainly covered this story, but ultimately it doesn't surprise most Israelis very much. The reaction of any Israeli I've asked can be summed up as "If the Mosad did it, it should have been done much more quietly." Or, for example, while Iran is a big news story here, Israelis are certain that Iran is developing nukes, so all of this breathless are-they-or-aren't-they speculation loved by NPR is passed over here. Israelis also tend to be quite cynical about the future of Israeli-Arab relations; they've seen every headline before, so they don't get all excited over each new possible development. And, frankly, daily life goes on.

To show you what I mean, consider the English and Hebrew websites of Yediot Ahronot, one of Israel's leading newspapers. Yesterday, this was the front page of the English edition, www.ynetnews.com (click any image to see a larger version):

Basically all of the stories are about Israeli-Arab relations, which I guess makes sense: that's all that people outside of Israel tend to see (or care about) in terms of our little country. 

But here was the front page of the Israeli version, www.ynet.co.il:


Here's a translation (thanks to the creative word choices of Google translate):

I kind of feel badly that Tamar (whoever she is) is getting drilled, but what strikes me most about the Hebrew headlines is just how ordinary life within Israel feels when you're here. The top story was about a major traffic jam on "kvish hachof," one of our main highways. The article on the bottom of the screen that gets translated as "Occupation"? It's not referring to occupation of Palestinian lands, but to occupation for your hands as you make homemade Purim goodies. (It's actually a pun-- "mishloach yad" means this kind of occupation, while "mishloach manot" are the gifts we send on Purim.) The second story, which Google elegantly translates as "What do Csbdihh can not" is not an essay on what to do when UN inspections fail. Its title is actually "Ma osim ceshehabedicha lo matzliach," or "What to do when a joke falls flat," and it features an interview with two young people with special needs.

And, in a sense, this is what I've tried to convey through this blog. How ridiculous, beautiful, and ordinary life in Israel can be. How Israelis are stubborn, loud, quirky, and kind. How the question of "what do you use to mop a floor" can be more important to the daily life of a new olah than "what do you think about granting the right of return to Palestinian refugees." Certainly, the second question could impact my daily life even more than dirt on my floors, but life in Israel is so much more funny and full than NPR headlines would have you believe.

Here's to another year of being Israeli! Thanks so much for reading. Comments and links make me warm and fuzzy inside every time.

P.S. If you want to read good coverage of the Hamas assassination controversy, I highly recommend the daily updates being posted by www.israellycool.com. Also, Ruti Mizrachi posted a really beautiful edition of the Jewish blog carnival, Haveil Havelim, over at Ki Yachol Nuchal. Check it out!


  1. Congratulations on a year of great posts. And, having had your Israeli salad many times, it's definitely medal-worthy! :)

  2. aww... thanks! I blame the Russian judges. They were totally favoring Wikipedia.

  3. This is an awesome blog. I've been slowly catching up on your old postings over the last few weeks. I'm a wannabe Israeli - I spend time listening to Galgalatz, I'm in an ulpan, and I've spent lots of time there over the years - but have a very American spouse and no chance of ever making Aliya. This spot helps me do it vicariously, and you are interested in so many of the same cultural things that I am.

    Keep up the good work. You have fans out here on the internets!

  4. Happy 1 year Blog Anniversary! I absolutely love your blog.

    And I'm passing this post along to my mother so that hopefully she will understand that when i visit Israel, I am not formally issuing a death wish. I love how completely normal life in Israel is :)

  5. Thank you so much, Simi and Magen! I was a vicarious Israeli for a while, Simi... have fun begin Israeli from America. And Magen, I hope you managed to convince your mother that Israel isn't a mass of smoking rubble... after living here for 2 1/2 years, I find myself forgetting how a lot of Americans see Israel!

  6. Look for תמר 1 on the Hebrew Wikipedia, and you'll discover just 'who' Tamar is. {Hint: Israel's natural gas accumulation, which needs to be drilled in order to be used!}


  7. It's funny but I'd been thinking about this lately... how I'd like to find an English, online Israeli news source that doesn't read more like the Wall Street Journal or NY Times than say.. the NY Post or Daily News.

    Any ideas of where to find it?

  8. Mazal tov! I always look forward to reading your blog posts :)

    It's entertaining because there are so many differences compared to Americans. Even the American music that they play here is different...you turn on the radio and you'll never hear country music or a lot of soul/R&B. And that's just one example..

    Don't worry, you'll never run out of things to blog about :P once again, congrats. Not many people can write these types of blogs, it requires a lot of insight and an open mind :)

  9. Naatz, I realize the real meaning of Tamar (and it's really exciting for Israel!), but I found the translation funnier. Pesky settler, so you WANT something more fun, more on the level of the NY Post or Daily News? Hmm. I recommend the blog Israelity... I link to it from my sidebar. It publishes stories about issues in the Israeli news, including frequent stories about pop culture and cultural trends. You could also browse around in the Ynet English page-- the front page may be all foreign policy, but the other sections cover all aspects of life in Israel.

    Thanks, everyone!

  10. I love your blog too. My favorite post is the one about monosyllabic Hebrew: my family keeps giving me funny looks when I say "ehhh" instead of "uh" in the middle of conversations.

    My mother, like magen's mother, also imagines Israel to be a smoking pile of rubble, although I don't need to work as hard to convince her it's not, because she's too distracted by my brother's desire to move to Brazil, which she imagines to be an orgy of killers, kidnappers, and crazies.

  11. Maya, not necessarily more fun or about pop culture but I WANT to know about the accident that closed Route whatever or who was arrested for whatnot... I want it to be more like the Hebrew newspapers...

  12. Pesky Settler-- Hmm. That's tricky. Learn Hebrew? :) Google translate can help you get the gist of articles on ynet.co.il.

    Bryan-- that's too funny. Your poor mother. (Also, when I went to Brazil when I was in college, my BRAZILIAN grandmother was so worried about my exposure to Brazilian men that she begged me to come back with, er, my maidenhood intact... true story. We also got mugged while we were there, which has never happened to me in Israel!)

  13. Just felt a need to add to the acclaim! I'm an avid reader of your blog - I also happen to be married to an Israeli and live in the north. So I often feel like I'm either reading what goes on in my own head, or have a great virtual friend! Thanks and keep it up.

  14. I just wanted to admit that I am one of your readers who googled Israeli salad to impress my Israeli boyfriend...but I have enjoyed all your other entries. And a few Israeli salads :)

  15. Natalie, I'm glad to be your great virtual friend. :) Haha... anonymous #2... no shame in that. I used to google Israeli recipes to impress my Israeli boyfriend (now my husband) too. :)


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