Today I walked from Florentine to Yafo, then up through Neve Tzedek to Ha-Karmel Market, then east on Sheinkin Street until finally turning back south and heading home via Rothschild / Allenby. I like having a day to explore a city, to breathe its air and smell its smells, to watch its people and stumble upon interesting things and places.
I’m reminded of how much I dislike feeling like an outsider. It just hit me how comfortable I feel in Brazil, how it feels like home in a sense – because I can speak the language fluently. But here, even picking a restaurant made me hesitant. Will I be able to decipher the menu? If I try to speak Hebrew, will I mangle the pronunciation? If I speak English, will I be looked at as one of “those” Americans who expects the world to adapt to me rather than me to the place I’m visiting?
It really reinforces the idea of how language influences not only one’s functionality in a given culture, but also one’s confidence and sense of belonging. Although many in Tel Aviv do speak English, I don’t want to just slide by without learning the language of the Land… so I’m seeking a Hebrew teacher ASAP.
Regarding the restaurant… I gathered up my courage and picked a random, friendly-looking cafe. “At medaberet anglit?” I asked the waitress.
“Yes,” she replied with a smile. “And we have a menu in English.”
I left her a large tip to thank her for making me feel welcome my first night in Israel.