There is a common conviction among Israelis that Israel is like a “Little America” – or for the ones that wouldn’t want to exaggerate too much – Israel is a sort of “little sister” to the United States.
Because of this belief, we Israelis grow up with a warm, cozy feeling and a sense of pride that many things are very similar or even identical between the two countries, thus the “same same” theory among Israelis.
In my case, I didn’t necessarily think that everything was the same, but I needed to keep my fears in control in order to keep my friends and family sane. So I ignored the sirens of common sense and adopted this “same same” theory.
Basically, the only requirement of the “same same” theory is that one disregards any ambivalent thinking about the differences between Israel and the United States and strongly believes in the absolute idea of the “same same.” To succeed in this, one has to understand that only minimal changes might exist and put the worrying aside.
In my new, adopted life, the only differences would be: weather (it’s cold), measurement system (something other than the metric system), and language (English, primarily).Very simple. Achievable! Soul freeing!
Oh, but silly me…I was soon to be struck with reality – the Minnesota reality. Between you and me, this Israeli, simplified theory, is not the correct one. “Same same” is only the first part of the whole, original, globally-known theory. It lacked the main ingredient, the clarifying idea of the true theory. And that was for me to find out.
So let me tell you how I realized I had in my possession only half the truth, and how I discovered the other half that completes the whole theory. Here is my story, the beginning of the chronicles of an Israeli in the Twin Cities:
One week into my relocation, my husband and I were having breakfast at the Original Pancake House. It wasn’t my first time, as I had visited Minneapolis before, but this time something just wasn’t feeling quite right. I felt agitated, and as we were waiting for our calorie-charged breakfast, my eyes started moving from left to right as I was trying to measure the people who dined at the tables.
My ears were irritated from the breakfast rustles, and I couldn’t determine the unfamiliar noise which just made me feel uncomfortable. And my head…ouch, I felt as if all of my neurons bonded into a live electric web, transmitting an emergency rescue signal: “You are surrounded!” it was silently screaming. “HELP! You are surrounded!!!!!!!!!”
I was surrounded. OK, but by WHAT?
And there it hit me. I was surrounded by Minnesotans! This was my epiphany. No more “same same” babble, no more similarities – I realized now that things were going to be different. Life as I knew it has changed, right there, with the company of my two-egg-white omelet, the Star Tribune and my new husband. My new husband who was reading that newspaper with the type of concentration that only a man can have with his morning newspaper.
I was in shock. Well, not the kind that brings one to a hyper-ventilating panic attack, but the kind that limits the abilities of a very verbal woman and allows her to squeak out only four words: “They are ALL AMERICANS!!!”
My response from my husband was expected, as he raised his puzzled eyes from the newspaper: “Well yes…of course they are all Americans. You are IN America!”
Alas, I guess I didn’t get it before. Naïve? Oblivious? Blind?! But now I do. It was clarified for me during that defining moment at the Original Pancake House. I simply lacked the second part of the whole theory – I lacked the “BUT different” aspect of the theory.
So here I am now, equipped with the new profound wisdom of the whole “same same – but different” theory, ready to share what I find different between our two cultures.
Are you ready for Chapter 2 and the elements of culture shock induced by the differences in etiquette, manners, politics, etc? It’s going to be funny.
Editor’s Note: Watch for The Israeli Chronicles once a month.
(Photo: D’Arcy Norman)