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English-Speakers Laugh At Life in Israel

A scene from the film

Photo Credit: Yosef Adest

“Sh*t Anglos in Israel Say”, an English-speaking Israeli meme of the popular Youtube video Sh*t Girls Say”, earned 57,000 views in two days, taking comedic aim at the life of the average young English-speaking immigrant to Israel.

With such typical oleh quips as “I’m going to the post office, I’ll be back in 4 hours,” “You’re going back to the States? Oh, can you bring me back some NyQuil?” and “You have last year’s Cosmo?  Can I borrow it?” the film poked fun at the frustration, confusion, and occasional desperation of Israelis harkening from the US, Canada, England and Australia.

The video is the brainchild of Shira Rottner and Yosef Adest, a freelance video producer and photographer who made aliyah in 2003 from New York.  A self-proclaimed optimist, Adest – who is now 31, single, and living in Tel Aviv – says that while his video is a critique of Israeli society, it was also a labor of love.

“The whole video is a stab at Israel and Israelis,” Adest told The Jewish Press.  “It’s about what is wrong with this place, but looking at it and smiling at it.  We laughed the whole time we were making it.”

The video centered around the characters’ struggle to adapt to a sometimes brusque and foreign-seeming Israeli culture while remaining within the safe and familiar environment of the Anglo community, with its recognizable products and comforts. “What we joke about in the video is all true, it’s all fact,” Adest said.  “It’s not a reason that Israel is bad or challenging, it’s just how Israel is.”  The key, he said, is attitude.  “I feel great that I’m in a place now that I can say no, I’m not an Israeli and I’ll never be, but I completely feel like I fit in and I can call this place my home.”

“We grew up with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – we’ll always be different,” he joked.

Yet while Anglo Israelis frequently feel themselves to be apart from native Israeli culture, they can also grow to feel that they no longer relate to the culture of their past, either.  “I was in America, and people were getting in line to get on the bus, and I was like ‘really? You need a whole line?  Here, let me help you with your baby’. I really felt like a foreigner,” Adest said.  “And that’s crazy!  I’m not an Israeli, but I’m no longer American. I’m in the middle.”

Young and old, recent and veteran immigrants to Israel posted comments and kudos on Youtube and Facebook commiserating and laughing with the cast and crew.  Some commenters expressed sheepish surprise at how much the stereotypical immigrants sounded like them, while others shared their joy at being able to identify with the comical trials and tribulations of the actors.

At one point, one of the characters said “I hate it here”, which Adest said is something he has heard some immigrants say.  “Myself and everyone involved, we all love Israel, but we included that statement because people really say that,” Adest said.  “But I think at the same time, most people who grow frustrated with the challenges love it. I think you can get to a point where you can really appreciate it all.  We can make fun of it without harming the integrity of our love for this place as our home.”  Incidentally, the character expressing her frustration with life in Israel was immediately answered by a friend saying, “Oh, I love it here”.

As for himself, Adest made Israel home for different reasons than the ones he loves Israel for today.  “When I made aliyah, I came for very spiritual reasons, but I’ve actually come to love the Israeli culture, the Israeli mindset as well, completely separate from the religious and spiritual significance of the place,” he said.  “I think that’s when you can completely be absorbed here, when you can appreciate the whole gamut.”

JewishPress.com Managing Editor Yishai Fleisher expressed pride in Adest’s accomplishment.  “I first met Yosef Adest at Jerusalem II pizza in Manhattan when I was hosting a pro-aliyah event.  Later, I greeted him as he got off the Nefesh b’Nefesh plane on aliyah,” Fleisher said.  “It was obvious then that here was a young man who was coming to Israel with great ideological passion and a tremendous love of the land and the Jewish people, and since aliyah, he has put his talents to good use.  This video is entertaining, but it also shows the normalization of aliyah in American Jewish life and is a stepping stone in the process of the ingathering of North American Jewry to Israel.”

Yishai Fleisher and Yosef Adest have produced two films together – one about the mass priestly blessing which happpens at the festivals in Jerusalem, and one humorous short about shaking the lulav and etrog on Sukkot.

For more videos by Yosef Adest, visit www.yosefadest.com

 

About the Author: Malkah Fleisher is a graduate of Cardozo Law School in New York City. She is an editor/staff writer at JewishPress.com and co-hosts a weekly Israeli FM radio show. Malkah lives with her husband and two children on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.


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