Real Israelis

A36 semgirl3

Sami always drove me home in his cab, stopping a block before we got to my seminary and double parking. He would push the hazard lights on and then he’d get out of the car, meeting me on the passenger side, where we’d stand, leaning against the car and making out while the car lights flashed on and off like a metronome. We tried to time it so that I’d get back right at four in the morning when the security guard shift was changing. Both guards would go into the office for a few minutes to fill out paperwork and smoke out the back window. I’d hurry up the stairs to my room then, leaving my clothes in a puddle at the foot of my bed and tucking myself under my blanket, cell phone under my pillow with its alarm on high so that I’d wake up in time for my first class.

I could never get to sleep right away. I’d lie awake for a while, wondering what was changing about me that I was able to ignore the wrongness of a Orthodox Jewish girl with an Arab man.

I thought of the girls in seminary who were considered rebels. You could tell who they were because their rooms always smelled like burning hair. These girls straightened their hair using expensive electric hair irons with stainless steel handles and cords that were always wrapping themselves around chair legs. They were beautiful in a dark way, the kind of girls who smiled without showing any teeth, and whose laughter would crawl up your spine like fingers. They were the daughters of rabbis and principals, or their parents had made millions from old age homes. They came back to the dorms in the middle of the night smelling like vodka and hookah.

In class they pretended to pay attention, but it was a joke to them, and they’d smirk through lectures, drawing geometric patterns in the margins of their notebooks. At night they sat outside the ice cream shops on Ben Yehuda Street, flirting with boys from the rehab yeshivas, skirts exposing inches of clean smooth knee when they crossed their legs, necklines plunging with their reputations. Though they all had pretty Hebrew names they went by shortened masculine nicknames like Sam and Jo and Al. When it got late enough, and there was no risk of the wrong rabbi happening by, you could find them kissing their deviant boyfriends, or getting high in the back streets of the Old City, laughing at Israeli sports on TV, and playing with some boy’s tsitsis in a way that was meant to be distracting.

My brother had warned me against becoming any of those girls, but those nights when the feeling of Sami’s breath hung heavily over me, I lay in bed composing e-mails to Ari that I’d never send. So, I found a real Israeli, as long as Arab-Israelis count. He feels real to me, Ari. He has big hands, and a soft voice, and he says things like, “I thought about you all day,” whenever I see him. Sometimes it does feel wrong, but sometimes it doesn’t. And I can’t tell anymore if I even like him. He’s nice in the way nice is supposed to be. He says things no one else says to me. Is this worse than being a stupid superficial girl?

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Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.