An Israeli-American in New York
By Molly Livingstone
I shopped at Target. It seems like a simple errand for anyone living in the US, with a Target always there somewhere down the road. In fact, it is the talk of the internet - hitting up a Target for just one item and walking out with another twenty things you didn’t even know you needed.
But for me, as I strolled the aisles of Target, I realized in Israel this word has a whole different meaning. I realized this because I am an Israeli-American in New York.
I look the part of your average US citizen. I know the major American products from Hanes to Luna bars; I have my go-to favorite foods from a coffee at Dunkin Donuts to the Tex Mex food truck. While I might look the part on the outside, I was having a harder time playing the role from the inside.
In my mind, I was thinking about targets. Not the store, but my fellow citizens in Israel that have become them over the last few months as terrorism has been on the rise. And as I wrote this, I checked the news and read about the attack on a young mother of six, killed in her home. Her name, Dafna Meir, will now be etched into her tombstone, after she was brutally murdered in front of her daughter.
Target where I grew up is a store. Target where I now live is a definition of terror, stabbing Jews on the basis that they are Jewish.
And while I live in Israel, as an Israeli, these “Americanisms” separate me there too. In Israel my American accent never takes me far in Hebrew, with Israelis often switching from Hebrew to English trying to make me feel comfortable. I love salsa, but to most Israelis I am describing matbucha, a Moroccan tomato salad. They are similar and yet so different. I guess in a way I am like that, too - salsa to some, matbucha to others.
Looking the part in America, but not feeling it, I wandered the streets observing just how out of place I felt. When I saw three firetrucks outside a nearby building, I panicked, worried there was an attack. Same goes for helicopters, which I assumed were locating terrorists, but my friend reminded me it is more likely a rich businessperson on their way to the airport. Sirens obviously make me jump and I eye everyone for hands in pockets, making sure that I am not the next victim.
I spoke with New York Jews living on the Upper West Side and they tell me they are not worried about stabbings here. They saw me jump and laugh, explaining they don’t hear the sirens, it’s just noise that blends into the background.
I feel jealous of how normal that is, and so badly want to go back to that feeling. Nowadays, the rule has become, holding my breath as the first siren passes, and if there is more than one, I know I will have to exhale out in fear.
I know that there is this side of living in Israel now and the current situation, but there are many parts that I miss about the society that, despite the tensions, remain a part of everyday life.
I wanted to make more friendly conversation with the people standing too close to me on the subway. In Israel you often find yourself in deep discussions even before you give your name. Here, the “how are you,” is a courtesy. How much does anyone really care? Suddenly that invasive older woman on the bus telling me my baby looks cold is a warm comfort that I miss.
My observations are my opinions. I know that not everyone feels like salsa or matbucha. But I am caught up in two worlds. Part of me wants to push through the polite line on the subway and get there first (Israeli), while the other part is glad for calm and order (American). The two can be so opposite or just tomatoes by a different name. Just as delicious.
Molly Livingstone is a freelance reporter and comedian, not to mention a mother of two, living in Jerusalem. While playing all those roles, the script remains the same, showing the world the Israel that she sees everyday, from the people and places, to the culture and definitely the food.