Dating Israeli Men: Is it Possible to be Good Enough for their Mothers?

I’ve been living in Israel for almost three years but I’ve been connected to this sunny country for more than that. I met my first Israeli boyfriend when I was still living in Warsaw when I didn’t know much about Jewish culture or about Israel itself. Back then, I didn’t really understand how lucky I was – neither he nor his family cared that I wasn’t Jewish, and I believed that was a normal situation. It’s not that they didn’t mind me being a Christian; they were atheist and didn’t care about religion at all.

I was living in this kind of bubble for a long time and I was very surprised when I moved to Israel a few years later. When I became a single and started to date other Israeli men, I realized how connected they were to their mothers and the important role that religion played in their lives.

There are three questions that the typical Israeli guy who is trying to hit on you will ask you: what’s your name, where are you from, and are you Jewish?

So, are there actually any chances of overcoming the religion issue, satisfying Jewish moms and establishing happy and long lasting relationships with typical Israeli men?

Let’s take it phase by phase and see.

1. Before being good enough for a mom, you have to be good enough for your Israeli man.

There are three questions that the typical Israeli guy who is trying to hit on you will ask you. What’s your name, where are you from, and are you Jewish? The first time, I couldn’t believe what I’d heard so I repeated, “Excuse me” several times just to make sure that I understood it well.

But no, I wasn’t mistaken. Most of the time, the third question really was, “Are you Jewish?” In the beginning, I didn’t really know how to react to that but with the time (and guys), I started giving funny answers. It wasn’t really offended but I was sort of annoyed.  When the guy asked me the “magic question,” I immediately knew that there was no point in continuing the conversation. From the beginning it was clear that me not being Jewish was a deal breaker.

So if you are lucky enough to meet someone who doesn’t care about your religion from day one and you can actually establish a romantic relationship, you can move to the next phase:

2. I’m cool with my girlfriend not being Jewish but when I think about it, I’m not that cool with my wife not being Jewish.

Ok, let’s say that you met one of those open minded Jewish men who is not into religion that much and doesn’t really care about you being a goya . A “goya” is female who doesn’t have Jewish roots–which is kind of derogatory term but let’s not get into that right now. You are proud like a peacock – you finally found someone who accepts you the way you are, you fall in love, you start to make some plans and then BAM!

Your sweet and cool man start to talk about you maybe hm…converting? At first he says it very quietly making you feel like it’s not even an issue – only with time you realize how BIG this issue is and that your open-minded sweetheart can’t stop talking about it.

Now you have two choices. The first choice is that you can convert or the other is that you say goodbye to your handsome, intelligent and “open minded” boyfriend. Whatever you choose, it’s going to hurt, believe me.

But let’s try to be optimistic and consider the best case scenario: you and your Israeli boyfriend are happy together, have discussed the conversion issue many times and decided that no one wants anyone to convert. What will happen next?

3. You meet his mom and realize that you being a goya was never a problem – the problem is that your future kids won’t be Jewish.

Yep, here we are again–this nightmare never ends. So maybe it was never about you, maybe it was always about those future children of yours? The Jewish mom will be very polite, serve a good dinner, smile, and compliment your education/profession. But, during dessert, she will start asking difficult questions. It doesn’t matter how smart you are and how lovely your answers are. You can’t do anything about your roots and religion (or the lack of).

Eventually, the polite talk will get stuck on one and only one subject – conversion. And this is the best case scenario. In the worst case scenario, in the eyes of a very religious Jewish mother, even conversion won’t make you good enough for her son. There is nothing you can do about it.

Now you have two choices – you can convert or you say goodbye to your handsome, intelligent and “open minded” boyfriend. Whatever you choose, it’s going to hurt, believe me.

But hey, let’s try to be optimistic again. Maybe you’ve decided that you want to convert to please the family (mostly the mother) of your loved one. Maybe you even started to believe in Judaism or have found some other important reason to convert. You will go through the long and hard process and again, if you are lucky and determined enough, you will finally become a Jew. Do you think your problems will end the moment you officially become a Jew? I’m sorry to disappoint you but…

4. The Jewish mother will find one million reasons to prove that you are still not good enough.

You are so proud of yourself now. Yes, you converted, you got married and maybe you are even expecting a baby. Excellent! Where’s the catch? Well, the Jewish mother has tons of qualities that you don’t have. She is a great cook, and you probably only know how to make a scrambled egg. Expect her to feed your husband even if he is fat and she will give you “that” look when you try to talk about leading a healthy lifestyle.

She always talks louder than you so even if you have something smart to say you won’t be heard. An Israeli mom knows how to protect her son better than you, and she knows where the warm socks and scarf are after all. She can suffer a lot to make her son happy. Are you ready to compete with that?

She doesn’t complain like you and she doesn’t expect that much from her lovely boy. Mommy can needle her boy so well that she’s become a master in “Jewish Acupuncture.”

Okay, maybe you do master some of the qualities mentioned above. But I’m pretty sure you are still far away from being as good as the real Jewish mommy. Unfortunately it’s simply impossible to satisfy her. And believe me, if you don’t succeed, after a while, your boyfriend will probably agree that you’re not good enough.

5. So the conclusion is….

With that said, I have to admit that I was lucky enough to be in relationships with two Israelis that had amazing and chilled out mothers. None of them cared about my religion or knitting skills. Unfortunately, soon enough life showed me that they were rare exceptions. Most non-Jewish girlfriends, fiancés and wives struggle with most of the things I’ve mentioned above.

Being in a culturally mixed relationship is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating things that can happen to a woman. Yet, it is one of the most challenging ones, as well. Being with an Israeli man means facing religious differences so I sincerely recommend that you state your needs and feelings regarding this subject before getting into a serious relationship. Be sure that you know what you want and stand up for it.

As much as I like going with the flow, I find that being clear about the conversion issue from the beginning is very important. If you don’t do so, you can end up with broken heart. Or, you might find yourself doing things that you don’t want to do only because you are too in love to let the relationship go. So get ready for a fight and stay hopeful about finding an Israeli man who can happen.

 

Related Reading

Dos and Don’ts of Dating Israeli Men
10 Tips That Will Make Every Woman’s Trip to Israel So Much Better
20 Hebrew Slang Expressions You Need to Know

Dating Israeli Men: Is it Possible to be Good Enough for their Mothers?


About Joanna Kowalewska

Joanna KowalewskaJoanna Kowalewska comes from Poland but she’s been living abroad for the last 9 years. For Joanna, traveling is more than learning new languages and discovering new cultures, it’s a way of getting to know herself better and finding her real identity. Joanna is a passionate traveler, amateur photographer, and Photoshop lover. She can’t stay in one place for too long because she feels that the world is calling her – that’s also the name of her travel blog where she shares her experiences and adventures with the world.

10 thoughts on “Dating Israeli Men: Is it Possible to be Good Enough for their Mothers?

  1. Avatar
    Kristi
    September 13, 2017
    Reply

    Joanna, thanks so much for posting this. While some of the other commenters are correct in that not *every* Jewish mother is this way, I think it’s an important experience to elevate and discuss.

    There are many, many hurdles to jump as a non-Jew in this country; as a Christian woman who has married an Israeli Jewish man, I can relate to pretty much all of them. (Unfortunately, my MIL isn’t as ‘chill’ as your boyfriends’ moms have been…luckily, the rest of the family is quite welcoming and open-minded.) Thank you for giving us all a glimpse into the very real challenges that some of us do indeed experience.

  2. Avatar
    Roey
    February 28, 2016
    Reply

    Well… I’m an Israeli-Jewish. My religion is really important to me…
    I don’t know about other people. Some of them do make a big deal of the religion issue. And some of their mothers will try to find a reason why the girlfriend not good enough for their sons (But they’d it for Jewish as well).
    I can tell you about myself.
    I met a Cristian woman. We’ve been together one and half year.
    I DIDN’T at any point asked her to convert for me. I loved her so much.
    I had really hard time that she’s not Jewish. But I’ve never told her that.
    I really though about my children, But because I loved her so much. I accepted her as she is. Before her and after her. You ask me if I see some other religion girl and say to myself “Hey. She’s awesome. Let’s make a move on her”? No… Honestly, I don’t.
    I really asked myself how Passover will be like. How Yom Kippur will be like. Purim. Etc. She can’t never understand me!
    I have so many issues…
    I just don’t want to hurt her or me.
    So why to meet non-Jew girl in the first place?
    So that’s why I avoid that…

  3. Avatar
    Jessica
    April 15, 2015
    Reply

    Israeli men are straightforward guys? Look on Amazon for the book “365kb” to see what that means. It is the perfect book about men, especially if your boyfriend is an Israeli 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Yvone
    February 10, 2015
    Reply

    I actually take offence to this article! I converted for my israeli husband and the mother never once judged me! Stop makin grneralizTions about jewish people! I love this religion and his mom is s wonderful women. Mabey you weren’t good enough!

  5. Avatar
    loo
    October 7, 2014
    Reply

    Even though I fall into the exception I find the article sad as it puts a mirror in front of my face which shows that our Israeli society is primitive in many aspects. I wish people were judged by who they are and not by who their parents are. Thanks for posting.

  6. Avatar
    Noa
    October 6, 2014
    Reply

    As a Jewish girl I can tell you that the “Jewish mother” will find what’s wrong with you even if you have the same roots… That’s the way of the world right? Some mothers can’t really let go of their children…

  7. Avatar
    Mitzi
    October 6, 2014
    Reply

    Israeli are not like Japanese or Druze because we are a mixed culture, so it varies and it’s different from one family to another. Also, not all Israelis are Jewish or even traditional.

    Why seek to change and fit yourself in order to please someone else? You are an individual, be yourself. People may like you or hate you no matter how hard you try to fit into their tradition or “rules”. Some people are so close minded that even if you try the fact that you are not Jewish will make them hate you. There is nothing you can do about it, so you better be who you are.

  8. Avatar
    Itzik
    October 6, 2014
    Reply

    Much is true, but you cannot generlize,
    Israeli, jew, male, dont care about religion and dosent have a mother.

  9. Avatar
    VL
    October 6, 2014
    Reply

    As an Israeli, I agree with that
    But want to say
    That every nation has the “rules” as among his Japanese have their own traditions
    Druze their own rules
    These rules may be outdated and someone from the outside it looks weird
    But as family humor that not everyone understands
    So did the rules

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