Summer is upon us, and this means one thing: Israelis are ditching the sweltering Holy Land in search of more exotic locations, and chances are you’ll probably bump into quite a few of them.
Unsure whether the person next to you is a native Hebrew-speaker? If they fit the following description, go right over and say “shalom!”
- They’re wearing less-than-glamorous sandals
If you’re debating whether the person in front of you is Israeli, look down at their feet. Are they wearing unfashionable outdoor-terrain sandals? Israeli.
There are probably very few Israelis who don’t own a pair of Shoresh (Source) sandals. Pulled out for occasions ranging from hikes to weddings, they make regular appearances in local life and are the obvious choice of footwear for young and old alike on their mission to conquer the outside world.
- They have swagger
Speaking of conquering the world: While most people just walk across the street, Israelis stride as if they’re conquering every inch of asphalt beneath them.
The swagger probably has to do with the bountiful Israeli self-confidence and determination. Think we’re exaggerating? Take a good look at how your Israeli friends cross the street next time you meet up for dinner.
- They’re at a far-flung destination
You’re on a beautiful, remote island, completely alone bar one other person. Odds are that that person originates in the Holy Land.
There’s nothing Israelis like more than making it to the most far-flung places on earth. And we’re not just talking about adventurous young people on their after-army trip – adults too love to explore where no one (and in particular their boastful, well-traveled neighbors) has been before. Just say “shalom.”
- They’re on Fifth Avenue
A caveat on the above point – while Israelis absolutely love remote locations, they also really, really love New York’s Fifth Avenue.
And for good reason, too. Shopping in Israel is usually more expensive than in the States, so Israelis in the Big Apple devote quite a bit of time stocking up on their favorite brands before returning home bearing gifts for themselves, family and friends.
Across the pond, the same phenomenon can be observed at Marks and Spencer on London’s Oxford Street. Trust us: Don’t gossip about anyone in Hebrew while there.
- They’re not quite standing in line
As every visitor to Israel knows, standing in line in an orderly fashion is something us locals have never gotten the hang of. And we know it, too, so that’s why when we go abroad we try to fit in and politely stand in line together with everyone else.
Trouble is, lack of practice means we’re not very good at it. So if you see a person a bit off-center while queuing up, you can pretty much assume they’re Israeli.
- They’re chatting with the waiter in broken French
Unlike Americans, who assume that everyone else in the world must speak English, we Israelis know there’s no chance of being understood in our native tongue. We also love languages – often picked up at home from our grandparents – and relish the opportunity to practice them, whether we’re fluent or not.
So if you hear someone confidently trying out their bad Arabic, Italian or French on a confused waiter, there’s a good chance that person’s an Israeli having the time of their life.
- They’re hanging out in groups
Israeli tourists fall into two categories: Those who absolutely detest bumping into fellow compatriots while abroad (good luck to them), and those who love moving around in packs.
It’s therefore not an uncommon sight to see Israelis hanging out in groups abroad. Whether they’re best friends since high school or just met each other now at the checkout line at the store, they’re delighted to have lunch all together. And contrary to popular opinion, they’re actually quieter than the same number of Americans gathered around a table.
- They’re muttering into their Starbucks
Israelis are huge coffee snobs, a quality nourished by the fact that Israel serves pretty outstanding coffee. A favorite pastime while abroad is to compare the local coffee to the one back home, and unless we’re vacationing in Italy it’s not going to be favorable.
That’s why, when Israelis enter Starbucks, they’re not quite sure what to do. On the one hand, they won’t be caught dead drinking sub-par coffee (“eeechs, that’s not real coffee!”). On the other, it feels oh-so-very-cosmopolitan to sip that Frappuccino.
The solution? Slurp away while complaining non-stop. If you see someone doing that, you can be more than certain where they come from. Or you might end up chatting to an Italian.
- They’re young guys with too-long hair
Or too many bangles. Or an oversized nose ring. All these are the hallmarks of a young Israeli discovering the world after three years of military service.
During their army service, Israeli boys are prohibited from growing their hair and sporting jewelry like teens in many other countries do, a fact that unfortunately prompts them to make up for lost years with over-zealous abundance.
So if you come across 25-year-olds (and in some lamentable cases even 35-year-olds) looking in desperate need of a trim – there’s a good chance there’s an Israeli before you.
- They’re unsuccessfully trying to shush their kids
Kids in Israel are given pretty free rein. Unlike elsewhere in the world, no one in Israel will bat an eye at the sight of a toddler running around half-naked, schmeared in chocolate and singing at the top of their voice.
Israelis do realize, however, that the same simply doesn’t apply abroad. Which is why they’re bravely trying to shush their kids in restaurants, parks, museums and other public places. Rather unsuccessfully, of course, since their kids couldn’t care less where on the globe they are. So give them a nod and a smile, perhaps even a “ma nishma?” to make them feel less alone in the world.
- You can’t quite place them
Despite all the above telltale signs, you can’t quite place the people in front of you. They’re obviously not American. European, perhaps? No, not quite. We’d bet they’re Israeli. Why? A true melting pot of diasporas and peoples, Israelis are a real mix, embodying many different looks, customs and traditions all at once.
Unless, that is, the people you’re staring at are actually Spanish. Don’t worry about it; Israelis get confused over Spanish people all the time.