Finding love in Israel but also finding oneself in a new country – help offered!
By Oren Ben-Arieh
“What’s love got to do with it” so goes the Tina Turner classic. Well everything in my case!
Let me begin – I am a born and bred Israeli. When I began my academic life – a Batchelor degree in geography and humanities, and an MA in City Planning at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – I decided to pursue a minor in Latin American studies.
Why? Well, as I was fascinated with different cultures I wanted to understand how they could contribute to my life as well as their impact on Israeli culture. Little did I know that years later, I would fall in love with a woman from Peru that by fate was studying for her MA at Tel Aviv University. Our paths crossed and now we are journeying on the same road together.
We are hardly alone on this journey!
Nowadays, more and more foreigners are romantically involved with Israelis, and many decide to settle here in Israel. This, of course, requires the foreigner to adjust to life in a country that can be complicated even for those of us born and raised here. Even though numbers are on the rise, it appears that the phenomena is rarely talked about, and hence hardly addressed. To prove my point, just consider: there are no statistics as to the number of non-Jewish partners living in Israel today.
I find it crazy that this growing trend is largely ignored.
Experiencing the bureaucratic process together with my now Latina wife of obtaining a temporary residence permit so she could start her life with me in Israel, opened my eyes to Israel’s burgeoning diversity. It also at the same time revealed that these new arrivals are hardly recognised and do not have a voice. They are, after all, part of our society and deserve to be included in every aspect of it.
After speaking to several such people, I learned that many feel excluded not by society but our public institutions. This was further proven – after all it takes two to tango – when I spoke to a number of their Israeli partners. This drove me to action. I realised they needed a platform, a warm comfortable and friendly ‘meeting place’ to exchange views, talk about their situations and learn from each other’s experiences.
The result is a podcast that I have created called: MIXING IT UP, that will serve ‘MIXED’ couples in the Holy Land.
LOVE IS IN THE AIR
What is so important is also that we Israelis need to hear from the foreigners how they feel about living in Israel; what they like; what they don’t like; what they miss from their native countries, and what they have found here in Israel that excites them. We Israelis can learn from this experience. It is not only the foreigners that need to adjust to their new environment.; we too may need to mend our ways to accommodate the new additions into our society. Its love that has brought them to settle here and so we need to embrace that love and spread it.
So far, I have found the initiative loads of fun but more important it has proved illuminating as couples open up with their stories. For instance, I’ve discovered that Indians and Israelis have much in common; their cultures revolve around close family ties and are obsessive about their kids. We sure are. I’ve also learned – and this was a surprise and amusing – that some see Israeli culture as “laid back” ! Really? Us – laid back?
Another revelation from many of the partners in relationships coming from counters all over the world, was less of a surprise and so true – the personal safety on individuals on the streets of Israel – particularly at night. This is not a given in most cities around the world today. As Mariana Salas, formally from Mexico, remarked recently:
“Leaving my home after dark is a new experience altogether; in my hometown this would be out of the question – unthinkable; it was simply not safe.”
Her next observation I found stunning as Israel is like one big construction site, with building going on all the time and all over the country. Mariana continued that while living here, she for the first time in her life walked alongside a construction site. When I asked why is that a big deal, she replied that where she is from, there is the perception – not unwarranted – that construction sites are dangerous for single women to be near as they are likely to be harassed.
You can listen more about her experiences on the soon to be published episode #3 with Mariana Salas.
In another episode, you will hear a European perspective on life here in Israel, as a British interviewee from Manchester explains how different things are here. This is just a taste out of the first of many interviews to understand what it means to be a foreigner living in Israel. So If you – locals or foreigners – wish to learn how it is to live in Israel while building a life with your Israeli partner, enjoy listening to our podcasts and contact me; I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Teaming up with an Israeli you are contributing to Israel’s beauty by contributing to its diversity. You now have an online meeting place where mixed couples can all learn from each other.
Whatever the season in Israel – “Love is in the air” and we would “love” to hear from you.
About the writer
Oren Ben-Arieh who holds a BA in Geography and humanities, an MA in City Planning, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is presently pursuing a PhD.
He has lived in Jerusalem most of his life, apart from a few years living in the USA. He has worked in both the public and private sector in the city planning world, where he currently serves as an environmental consultant in a private firm.
Oren is married to his Peruvian wife, Ana, who he met when she was studying for her MA in Tel Aviv. Both now reside in Jerusalem and are avid readers. Under her influence, Oren has been exploring Latin American writers, along with classic Latin musicians and typical foods.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).