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.
Dating Israeli Men: Is it Possible to be Good Enough for their Jewish Mothers?
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. Jewish mothers 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.
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Photo credits for Dating Israeli Men: Is it Possible to be Good Enough for their Jewish mothers? by Joanna Kowalewska.