American expat voters in Israel: a breakdown, and Ari Fleischer speaks again.

I was invited to attend a blogger press conference with former White House spokesperson (and fellow Jew) Ari Fleischer, who is on tour with iVoteIsrael (non partisan) and the Republican Jewish Coalition to encourage American citizens living in Israel to participate in Election 2012. And, of course, from Fleischer’s point of view – choose Mitt Romney.

Intrigued, I attended (though I had to leave right after Fleischer’s intro since his entourage was late; they had just landed in Israel with a flight delay, from which he quipped, “This is why I miss Air Force One”).

For the record, I’m not registered with any party in the United States. I prefer to make my election choices based on the leadership qualities of the candidate along with the issues, and that was also before I became an expat. So I’m some kind of independent in the smack-center.

“Living through the drama of the 2000 recount,” Fleischer stressed how important each of our votes can truly be, especially considering it’s been proven in recent elections. He also mentioned that barring one election, since 1992 the number of Jewish voters going Republican has increased. The RJC has a long term strategy to build the Jewish Republican vote.

Democrats and Republicans aside, the former spokesman also stressed that “having been in the White House, I can say how essential it is to have a president who is with Israel from the gut, from the heart.”

And one more thing from Ari: “I’m here because I love Israel. I’m here because Americans who live here need to vote. I’m here because Americans who live here need to vote… for Mitt Romney.”  Cute.

Anyway, having missed the Q&A portion of the event, I would like to point out some interesting stats related to how we American expats in Israel vote – or don’t vote – in elections.

One thing that iVoteIsrael reps kept stressing: why should we even bother? Aside from the fact it could make a difference in swing states, the idea they’re running on is that with a strong American expat voice coming from Israel, it offers politicians insight into how much we care and have a vested interest in the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. If 100,000 Americans vote from Israel, it shows we are a force to be reckoned with – to invest in.

The data is based on a survey conducted in March 2012 by iVoteIsrael:

  • There are 160,000 eligible American voters in Israel.
  • Not surprisingly, New Yorkers account for 40%, with California and New Jersey in second and third place, with just under 10% each.
  • It seems that there is a constant 2:1 ratio favoring the Republican presidential candidates; and it was still true for Obama vs McCain in 2008.
  • Almost half of those surveyed felt they had the same right and responsibility to vote in the elections as current residents, while 19% had reservations. A quarter felt it wasn’t their right as non-residents, and 18% weren’t sure how to get their ballot.
  • Also not a shocker: 65% say Israel-related issues are most important in deciding on elections.
  • A third of American voters in Israel are undecided on the 2012 presidential election.
  • Of 2008 Obama voters in Israel, 63% plan to re-elect.

Other fun facts:

  • Israel is #3 for amount of American expats; Britain is #1.
  • If your child is a naturalized American, and needs to put down a state (voting for state and local elections) they can use the last state you, as the parent, lived in. If the parent was also naturalized, they can put the grandparents’ last state. They can also choose between parents’ states if they were different. Good for swing state voters.
  • Until this year, absentee voting registration was continuous, but now you have to re-register for the absentee ballot every year.

If you’re an American expat living in Israel, I encourage you to get in touch with iVoteIsrael for help getting your ballot sorted. Again – they are non-partisan and just want to help you get your vote in. And very friendly staff!

If you’re an American expat anywhere, you can check up on your registration at

And if you’re one of the Undecided… I can’t really help you there. You have 118 days left to figure it out, though.

How do you take your Hebrew? Heavily-accented.

Anglo self-hate. Nothing wins more comments on the Times of Israel than that.

The latest? This piece by Noga Martin: Why can’t the Anglos learn to speak?

The author made aliyah at 19 with no background in Hebrew. She managed to learn it and speak it fluently, as well as develop an Israeli accent in doing so.

That’s really wonderful. Seriously. And I agree with the point that Anglos must try harder to learn Hebrew before and while they are here. Must.

But in her article, short and to the disrespectful point, she calls out the Anglos, especially North Americans, who never develop an accent, even as they manage to become fully fluent in Hebrew. And she calls out specifically Rabbi Dov Lipman, who gave a grammatically-correct Hebrew speech at the rally this weekend, albeit with a heavy American accent. He’s been here eight years, apparently.

I WISH I had his confidence. Maybe I’d speak that well. He should be revered as an shining example of what Anglo olim should strive for. He gets a ‘kol hakavod’ from me.

In my Masters here most of my professors happened to be Anglo. (Maybe it had to do with it being a Conflict Management course? Stam, stam.)

And throughout the two years of listening to their heavily accented Hebrew lectures, I retained a sense of high respect and pride. They didn’t give a crap, or at least they didn’t show it. And the students, even if I’m sure they had their share of making fun, did acknowledge the respect for it.

Sometimes I let my mind travel back to my elementary and high school years; unlike the author, I have been engaged in a Hebrew environment, academically, since first grade. I’d estimate half my teachers were Israeli, half Americans or other. Yet most of the time, the Hebrew was fine, accented or not. I took for granted being surrounded by a second language and the  fact that the non-native Hebrew speakers were doing it, Anglo accented, full time, in class. In America.

Here’s a superficial pet peeve we may share: I do cringe when people put on the rolling R’s and can’t pass. But who cares what I think? Good for them for trying.

The point is, do not dare to discourage people actually trying to make it work. And there are plenty of Anglos who do. Like the author of the Times of Israel post. People who come when they’re 20, 45, 60. People who come from any country. As posted in the comments, we could list many many high profile Israelis with strong accents – our foreign minister, bless his crazy soul. Golda Meir, who was the freakin prime minister. Stanley Fischer, another Anglo making a difference.

Gedalyah Reback wrote a really fascinating response about the science/linguistics behind learning language and picking up accents. They are two totally two different functions.

Let’s agree to first focus on learning the language b’chlal, shall we?

UPDATE: And then tonight, when my son asked me to read him a classic Hebrew children’s story, I was filled with all this pride – maybe for the first time – as I read it to him in my horrible disgraceful American accent. So thanks for that.


Bebe update: Fifteen months.

You’ve got three molars coming in at once. That doesn’t define you this month, but it does define how my night has been with you. That is to say cuddling you on my chest, stroking your silky hair, while you gently fall asleep, comfort-feeding, your arms thrown around me.

It’s nice when you’re not shouting in pain.

What does define you this month? Walking with attempts at running. Trying to keep up with your brother, who you’ve started giving nicknames to. Getting pissy when you don’t get your way, in a subtle not-so-subtle reminder that the misnamed terrible-twos are about to be upon us. Talking – a lot.

I guess you’re a toddler now? I guess it’s pretty cute that you’ve started telling me when you’re peeing? It’s definitely cute that the one part of the face you can identify with confidence is the ‘bouf’? And you’re not afraid to stick your fingers in anyone’s?

Why I’m not an Apple fangirl.

It’s been over ten years since I was first converted to the fruity side. I remember it well; after my embarrassing use of an old Compaq desktop PC my entire freshman year of college, a good friend pulled me aside and told me it was time to buy an Apple.

“Apple? the computer my dad bought in the 80s?”

“No, Apple: the brand new iBook line that will help you pursue your graphic designer dreams.”

It went something like that, anyway. I bought the steeply-priced iBook G3 and began living my new Mac life.

And then, something went wrong. The iBook line I had purchased from had an inherent flaw that only became apparent around the time the warranty ran out. It was a universal issue – I think the graphics card – and Apple had to add to the warranty and offered to fix it for free within the time frame.

Except the damage kept coming back (blank screen) and the laptop was essentially fucked. The customer service channel wasn’t very sympathetic and it was a pain to keep sending in the broken computer. I scoured internet forums to figure out ways to get around it, or find out how others were dealing with it, but everyone was complaining into a cyber black hole. These were the years before social media, my friends. The years before companies had no choice but to pay attention. Incidentally, also the years before Steve Jobs became a tech celebrity. (Yes, I’m a bit old).

By 2004 it was so bad I was operating in a tech-ghetto, and I finally broke down and gave up in 2005.

Why did it take me so long? Why am I still angry about it?

  1. I’m that freakin loyal of a customer. It’s not even funny how loyal of a customer I am. I have bought more expensive flights because I felt loyal to one particular airline (it’s El Al, whatever, don’t judge until you travel with kids). I have bought four consecutive Canon cameras because that’s just how I feel about the company. I’m a marketing professional, I like to help people, and I talk about things I love. A lot. So don’t cross me, brand.
  2. I expected more from Apple. Back then, Apple was making a comeback. And it was going for artsy designer types and students. And I was both. I thought I’d be taken care of – you invest me, I’ll invest you.
  3. Apple messed up. Why did I have to pay? Not literally; I bought a flawed product before they knew it was flawed. They were trying to make that better by extending the warranty a little and sending me boxes to ship it back and forth. But that’s not the kind of product experience I signed up for. Wouldn’t a supplemental voucher for a better model have done more?
  4. I don’t care for the snobbishness. As Apple rode the success of its iPod genius, one couldn’t help but notice – especially if you didn’t care much for iPod genius – the marketing voice of the company. Apple seemed to want to attract the people I hated. And I hated everybody, to be sure, but yuppie, hipstery, elitist, well, Apple fanboys, were not who I identified with. Ok, so everyone in my world owns an iPod or Mac or iPhone, but whatever.

Disclaimer: I do own an iPad that was a gift. And a gifted iPod Shuffle that I broke down and chose this year since I recognized it’s truly the most convenient for what I needed.

Yes, Apple, you are a creative marketing and product genius. There. Happy? I never thought otherwise, but it’s time to let go of the anger. Maybe your customer service has improved. Maybe all the people with MacBooks at cafes wanted them because they are high quality computers and not because they are cool factor.

Maybe Apple fanboys and girls have independent brainpower and the hivemind is all my own crazy skepticism.

Maybe not.

My next phone will still be an Android though. And my next laptop… we’ll see. I’m currently taking recommendations.

UPDATE: I’m a huge Louis CK fan. Turns out he’s not a big iPhone fan either. h/t @simonyag

Best friends.

Huz and I woke up Shabbat morning to the sound of ‘Ima, Abba, we have ice cream! Ima, Abba, we have ice cream!’

After a few rounds of that, our curiosity got the better of our sleep and we went to see…

Koala had climbed into Bebe’s crib and they were holding little plastic ice cream cones and licking them.

Mmm. I’m glad we did this.