Jumping in.

I made a commitment to myself that by the end of the second year of my aliyah, I’d feel comfortable enough with speaking Hebrew to ‘jump in’ and ignore the ice-cold water around me.

Look, it’s hard. I feel slightly guilty speaking to Israelis in English, but the truth is it only comes up at the office (except Israelis I don’t work closely with, I do my best) and with Israelis I’m friends with outside work (which is very few). In school I speak in Hebrew (except to Anglos, but those I can count on one or two fingers). In fact, in school I speak, listen, read, write and even think, at times, in Hebrew. With Israeli family who are not formerly Anglo, I speak in Hebrew. With any Israeli I have to make daily transactions with I speak Hebrew.

Casual conversation is not as free flowing as I’d like it to be, but I know if I just ‘jump in’ my self-expression will get better by the day. The problem is – obviously, since I have the skills – I’m so self conscious about it. More self conscious than I’ve ever been about anything in my whole life.

Why? Maybe because it matters so much to me. Because it’s about survival but also not necessary for survival. Maybe because I already knew the stigma is out there and I feel cut off. Maybe it’s the look that old timer Anglos give me – those who have been here longer and make a point of speaking with an Israeli accent (which actually sounds extremely crappy and is actually more frustrating than it is helpful). Which is funny, too, because I’m a self-hating Anglo myself.

Anyway. The two years are almost up; I’m starting to feel the pressures of Q4. I feel that the office may not be the place to start pushing because I feel like everyone is already looking at me. I’ll make the push outside of the office.

When I was younger, I hated the feeling of jumping into an ice-cold pool on a hot day, even though I knew it would be pleasurable. I also loved the feeling of jumping into an ice-cold pool on a hot day, even though I knew it would be painful.

That’s exactly what I feel like now.

Words are my life; expression is my health; language is my soul.

I’m so scared I’ll be bad at it, and cease to exist.






  1. YoelBA Avatar

    First of all. jump! The water’s fine!

    Thirty five years ago I left ulpan and after work hours refused to speak anything except Hebrew. I often (in the begining) had to resort to sign language, but I did it! The entire world was my ulpan. Once I stopped one person in Tel Aviv to ask what the word for “sign” was by pointing at the signs around me. After my group of teachers had passed the minyan mark someone finally figured out that I wanted the word for “shelit” in the plural “shelatim”. When I finally said these words correctly, I’m not exagerating, everybody clapped!

    Go for it! My personal feeling is the best way to learn a verbal language is through emersion.


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