In some ways Rafi is already an Israeli

In some ways Rafi is already becoming an Israeli child. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does.

He has no concept of Sunday being a day off since he couldn’t grasp the concept of a unit of time called a “week” until recently. He knows that stores are closed on Shabbat, no one goes to work, and no one goes to gan. He has no idea that it could be different, and I’m sure no amount of explaining would make him understand.

He plays soccer at the playground, that is to say football, although Jeff and I play American football with him at home. He still knows all about the Steelers!

I’m not sure if he remembers ketchup and peanut butter. We haven’t bought them here because they’re too expensive.

He knows that money is measured in units called shekels. Jeff is teaching him American money via his coin collection, but I’m pretty sure the word “dollar” isn’t in his vocabulary.

His knowledge of America is limited to his memories, while our neighborhood is a rich and living place. He has a mental map of the neighborhood and knows where the buses go, where the synagogues are, and where the playgrounds are.

I taught him all the American nursery rhymes, and we still read English books, but he’s more interested in the songs he sings at gan and the holidays they are learning about. I can’t teach him about American holidays except in a limited way. Before Thanksgiving, he won’t spend a month talking about being thankful with his friends at preschool. He won’t see the inescapable December glitz (which I actually missed this year, maybe because we left America right before Christmas).

It’s kind of hard to describe, but Rafi is starting to act like an Israeli. He’s more self-reliant and chutzpadik than he was a couple of months ago. Maybe a topic for a separate post because I can’t explain it in only a few sentences and it’s tied up with a lot of cultural attitudes, not to mention other variables such as living in an urban environment without a car.

When we come back to America, I wonder what it will be like for Rafi. I am sure he will transition just fine, like he did this time, but my home country will be a foreign one to him in almost every way, although speaking English like an American is a biggie. Nevertheless, he’ll be not quite five years old, so Israel will disappear from his memory just as quickly as America is disappearing from his memory now. I hope a few of the lessons of self-reliance and the rhythm of the Jewish calendar will stay with him.


One thought on “In some ways Rafi is already an Israeli

  1. So sweet! Some of his self-reliance is unrelated to Israel but comes as he is approaching 4 years old. And he surely has more confidence than he did a few months ago when he was a stranger in a strange land! But living where you are (urban as opposed to a kibbutz) is certainly enriching in many ways.

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