It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's So Your Character is from Mozambique ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!
Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts is as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.
(None of the Images are Mine)
Hi everyone (: My name is Zoey, I’m 20 years old, and I live in Israel.
Israel, you see, is a very small place (you can cross it in a few hours!) and it’s divided into three regions - the north (where Haifa is at), the south (where Eilat is at), and the middle (where Tel Aviv is at). If you’re wondering, I live in a small community about half an hour drive from Tel Aviv. I love reading books, especially fantasy. I love music. I love writing adventure stories (: And I also love watching TV shows, movies, and anime. I’m currently working on writing my book, as well as studying Creative Writing.
What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Israel is a very diverse place, and it is heavily centered around its religions. The majority of the population is Jewish Israelis. I am one, myself. It’s impossible not to focus about the religions when it comes to Israel, considering this is what it was built upon, so I just want to say that there are of course Muslims and Christians and other religions here that have their own way of life and beliefs.
|Sea of Galillee|
For celebrating the miracle of light that happened, when a single portion of untainted oil that couldn’t possibly last 8 days did, we commemorate by lighting a candle each day for eight days in the Hanukiah, as well as eating all sorts of oily foods (such as Sufganiyot (a type of Jewish-Israeli Doughnut) and Levivot (a type of Jewish potato pancake).
|Sufganuit and Hanukiah with lit candles|
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
Indeed, even I, a certified bookworm, sometimes deigns to leave her house to explore the world (for maybe 1 hour a week). Living in such a small country has it perks, considering I got to see a lot of places around here ;)
My favorite thing about Tel Aviv is that it is open 24/7 and there are lots of things to do and see. From unique shops to foods from all over the world, to the sea, to the beautiful sunsets and the excitement all around, it’s a very adrenaline-pumping kind of place. There is something for everyone there. It really makes you feel like you’re not alone in the world.
|Tel Aviv at Sunset|
|The Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv|
|Sarona Market, a famous food market in Tel Aviv - where you can literally find anything you want to eat from all over the world|
My favorite thing about Jerusalem is it’s ancient and spiritual feel. You walk around you see sacred places of 3 different religions, all crowding together from all over the world.
The Western Wall, the most sacred place in the Jewish religion, has once been part of the Holy Temple, and has been standing there for over 2000 years! Inside the cracks of The Western Wall, people put notes filled with hopes and wishes. As someone who put a note there herself, I can tell you it’s a such a wonderful experience. (‘:
|Jerusalem from a distance|
|The notes people put into the cracks of the wall|
|The Western Wall in Jerusalem|
Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Hamantash is a type of cookie, usually filled with chocolate or poppy seeds we eat in Purim (a holiday much like Halloween where everyone put on their costumes and exchange candies, celebrating Ester and Mordechai saving the Jews from annihilation – the victory over the evil Hamman!).
Bamba is my favorite snack! So, what is it exactly? It’s a peanuts snack and it’s… well, it’s… it’s really good, okay? I wish I could let everybody try it out because I love it so much.
Sufganiyah is a type of Israeli Jelly Doughnut we eat in Hanukkah. So yes, my love for Hanukah is partly due to the fact that it’s the only time in the year when you can eat this super tasty Sufganiya (we honestly don’t eat it at any other time of the year, which is what makes it so special ^_ ^, much like Hamantash). It is usually filled with strawberry sauce with lots of sugar powder on top.
Jachnun is my favorite thing to eat on the weekend (: How can you not enjoy a pastry that is made from dough with a side sauce of fresh graded tomatoes? It’s really good!
And of course, there is the Falafel and Humus. While not invented in Israel (They are actually originated from our neighbors in Egypt – thanks, Egypt!) we adopted it – along with the rest of the middle east – into our culture (: When it comes to street food, that’s what we eat.
Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
Hebrew is the official language in my country. Arabic is the second most spoken language in Israel. Russian and other languages are also spoken here by those who migrate from other countries. On most signs, you’ll usually see Hebrew, Arabic and English languages telling you where you are and where to go.
Hebrew – my native language – is a language that’s considered rather difficult to learn (especially for English speakers), and as a lover of languages, I can actually see why.
Arabic is also considered a rather difficult language to learn.
And while those two languages can resemble one another (as well as use certain similar words), they’re still very much… well, different. Much like Japanese and Chinese. And not like UK English and US English.Basically, someone who speaks Arabic won’t understand Hebrew unless they learn it. And someone who speaks Hebrew won’t understand Arabic unless they learn it.
To this day, every Jew can migrate to Israel and make it their home, so it is bound to be diverse in terms of culture and language.
So walking around, you won’t only see people of color and culture, you’ll also hear languages varying from Hebrew, English, Arabic, Russian, and such (: Hebrew, while being a very ancient language, dating back thousands of years, was only modernized somewhere between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, led by Eliezer Ben Yehuda.
Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
In terms of going to school/work in the morning, I don’t believe it’s much different than it is in the US/Europe and such. We start learning English in school from a young age. I personally adopted English because I love it so much ;) Usually, it’s what comes after finishing high-school that is different from… well, pretty much most places. In most places, after high-school, you either go to college/university and/or start working.
In Israel, it’s mandatory for the first 2-3 years after high-school to be in the army (women included). The only exception to the rule is due to religion problems and mental health difficulties. Those who do get a leave usually go to volunteer someplace for 1-2 years. After the army/volunteering Israelis either go to university and/or work. After those 2-3 years of service, in case of a war/training exercise, you can be called into service the age of 40-50.
I know, sounds complicated. I was trying to write this down as clearly as I could, but the system is rather hard to explain, so I’m sorry if this sounds like “Huh? O__O” Feel free to ask me any questions.
How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
Now, I’ve never been to the US, but I always wanted to. I’ll try my best to compare (:
A difference: In Israel, we’re rather informal. Yep, we don’t really speak formally. Formality actually freaks us out because it feels so… weird. Like the other person is keeping their distance when being formal. So, we honestly never say anything like “miss” or “sir” or “mister”. A salesperson once called my father on the phone “sir” (in Hebrew) and I went like this: O___O . Me and my dad later laughed about it because it’s something that just doesn’t usually happen.
A similarity: Much like how America came to be, Israel also came together in a melting pot – people of different backgrounds, language, religion, all coming together, all blending together, to make a country. My grandparents, for example, migrated from Morocco. I personally don’t speak the language, but my parents do.
Briefly describe three of your country’s historical events that you feel are important.
In the soon to be 70 years since Israel became, a lot has happened. I’ll attempt to briefly describe three of the most important events.
War of independence: Almost every country today had to fight for their independence at some point. The same with Israel. A couple of years after World War 2 & the Holocaust, there was a lot of Jewish migration to the country of Israel. When a decree was finally made recognizing the new state, it spiked a war for independence between the Israeli and the Arabs for the country (1948).
The Six Day War: As the name suggests, this war took place over the course of six days (June 5-10, 1967). What happened was a surprise attack of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan (yeah, all at once, three countries). The situation was looking grim, but by the end of it all Israeli forces managed to stop the attack.
The peace treaty with Egypt: Too many wars, too much hostility. This peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979 was the first peace treaty for Israel, and thus one of the most memorable ones in our history.
What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
The one and only time I remember being really angry about the Israeli/Jewish portrayal in culture was in the movie World War Z. This movie is actually based on a book, and it was even more frustrating to realize the frustrating events that happened in the movie did not actually happen in the book so… just why do you do this? ‘^^ I found said frustrating events to portray the Jewish religion in a very foolish way just to move the plot along. So… just no.
I also heard about a stereotype that I honestly don’t know how many/if people believe it, but… just in case. And it’s that in Israel we ride on camels. So… eh… I’ll just say that I’ve never seen a camel in my life. Like… never. We definitely drive in cars :P
What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
A recent favorite thing of mine to do is binge-watching the Conan O'Brien show (a famous comedian). To my surprise and delight, Conan O'Brien has actually been to Israel and filmed the whole thing! And wow, was it amazing. It was so much fun, enlightening, and hilarious. I loved the way he portrayed it and made sure to show as many sides as he could. It was just… really good. His travel shows, in general, are wonderful, because they show us that we can speak different languages and have different cultures and religions and ways of life, but still laugh all the same (:
Who are your top three favorite fictional characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
Okay, so… I’m sorry, but it’s nearly impossible for me to find Israeli fictional characters! Gaaah, I’m sorry. I’m a huge TV shows/movies/books fan not to mention live in Israel and I’ve got nothing. Darn. Well, I read and watch mainly – only – fantasy so… not a lot of Israeli people there ^_^ Unless you count Wonder Woman Gal Gadot, but it’s the actress who is Israeli and not the character.
So… I’m going to go with Jewish fictional characters if that’s alright with everyone.
Simon Lewis from The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare (one of my all-time favorite book series).
Felicity Smoak from Arrow (a favorite character and a favorite show)
Blue from Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (a very cute YA read)
Thank you, Zoey, for this very informative post! Come back next week for a post all about Bahrain!
Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Cuba, Venezuela, Belarus, Zimbabwe, and Iraq.
Do you have any characters from Israel? Did this inspire you to write Israeli character or set a book in Israel? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Zoey? Be sure to thank her!
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