The next Friday night we decided to visit yet another synagogue. That’s one of the advantages of being in Jerusalem, synagogues galore. This synagogue turned out to have an English speaking Rabbi, not such a big deal since many of the synagogue rabbis in Jerusalem speak English. But this Rabbi even gave his weekly sermon in English, something that is not easy to find, even in Jerusalem.
Since clearly everyone in this congregation was an English speaker, we thought we had hit pay dirt. After services, we looked around and tried to find a friendly face. We saw a gentlemen speaking what sounded like British English conversing with someone. He seemed pleasant. We waited until he finished his conversation and then approached him. He was friendly, engaging and soon introduced us to his wife. (In Israel it is very common for women to attend Friday night services.)
We spoke for a while and wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, they invited us to join them for a meal in their home the following Friday night. Despite our many trips to Israel, we have rarely been invited, by other than a family member, to a meal in someone’s home. We’ve been told that a reason for this is that since Israelis work on Sunday, Shabbat- Friday night and Saturday- is the only time they are able to spend time with their families. We were, therefore, thrilled to receive the invitation.
Our visit to another synagogue on Shabbat day, Saturday, did not result in any new contacts. Furthermore, a repeat visit to the English sermon synagogue did not produce any new acquaintances.
It turns out our “British” friends were Australians who had made aliya only two years earlier. Our dinner with them was delightful and we were even invited to their daughter’s engagement party and wedding. They are truly a lovely couple and we hope we will become good friends.
We continued visiting other synagogues and very finally told about one which was very close by. This synagogue was composed of about half Israelis and half Anglos. The Anglos were very friendly and we made a friend here also.
To sum up our experience: If you want to make friends with the Anglos in Israel, you have to approach them first and engage them in conversation. My guess is that since there are so many tourists in Israel, Anglo Israelis do not bother introducing themselves to every new face they see in the synagogue. Furthermore, even if you do speak with these Anglos, don’t expect an invitation to dine with them, since quality time with their families is limited and thus greatly valued.
We subsequently learned of more synagogues that have a large percentage of Anglos attending, but did not have the opportunity to visit them since our time in Jerusalem was limited.