a different side of Israel

Not Jewish?! What are you doing here? (Part Seven)

Jill in Israel

In Part Seven of “Not Jewish?!” Jill puts Jung to shame with her insights on the collective unconscious. 😉 No, kidding – it’s much more interesting than that. Read on…

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six.

The ‘C’ Word
by Jill Cartwright

And way before I had to send them to the army I would have to send them to kindergarten, where they would have a childhood experience that I couldn’t even begin to relate to.

I imagined them running out of their morning sessions clutching their finger paintings and babbling away about Purim or Hannukah in a language I could still only half speak. They would sing songs, watch programs and read books that were part of a tradition that I couldn’t help them love.

And what about Christmas? What about those magical years when you really believe that some cheery fat man in a red suit is going to squeeze down the chimney and spoil you rotten. There’s none of that in Israel. No high school Christmas parties, no carol singing, no exciting buildup, no countdown. Call it the cruel backlash of a capitalist consumer culture if you want, but hey it’s fun.

I spent Christmas Day in Tel Aviv once; I had to ask for the day off work and it was just like any other random Tuesday in December – grey, rainy and not a fairy light in sight. I spent the day yearning for the smell of turkey and the cosy presence of aunts and uncles gently dozing after eating far too much of it, their bright paper hats slipping down their foreheads and glints of sparkling wrapping paper at their feet.

“Well at least you’d never argue about which set of inlaws you’ll be spending Christmas with,” my sister once told me. But that wasn’t the point. I wanted my children to feel that same tingle about Christmas that I still did, even at the age of 31; I wanted to pass down the silly traditions and games and myths that my parents and grandparents had instilled in me. But I would never get to see my kids with a tea towel on their heads dressed up a shepherd for the nativity play, because my children would be Jewish.

Because if Boaz and I were to get married, then we had to deal with the big C word: conversion. It was very important to Boaz that I convert and that his children be Jewish.

Now, I would not consider myself a religious person – in fact as you can see, my approach to one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar – the birth of Jesus Christ – is all about food, family and overindulgence in every way and very little to do with the advent of the spiritual founder of my supposed beliefs.

Easter is hot cross buns and chocolate eggs, lent is giving it all up, Palm Sunday is somewhere in between and church in general is about gossipy old women and the weak strain of wobbling falsettos trying to find the right key for the day’s hymn.

But the minute someone asks you to give it all up, something strange happens on a molecular level. It’s like someone has asked me to rewrite my DNA coding, to unlearn everything that has been imprinted on my psyche from age 0. My religion meant nothing to me, I thought, but give it up? Now everything’s gone a little shaky.

And wasn’t it all a little hypocritical? Did a word really make all the difference? Wasn’t I just playing into the hands of institutionalized religion? I mean there are things I like about the Jewish religion and there are things I like about the Christian religion; Buddhism has a lot of appeal as do parts of Hinduism, but I, and all of us, have read enough about perverted priests, rampant rabbis and suspect spiritual leaders to want to shun the whole idea of an organized belief system. And I felt that by converting, by consciously choosing to be part of a religion, I was giving my backing to such managers in the huge business of God; that I was saying “yes” I agree to be a part of what you represent. And that kind of clashed with my principles.

It was a big decision. But it was one I was prepared to take had I felt the motivation were strong enough. If I were to convert, I wanted to convert because I truly felt it, that I truly wanted it with all my being, for me, for Boaz and for our life together. And it was then that I faced what I had really known somewhere deep down all along – that I didn’t want to convert for Boaz.

And so I turned back to him and in a small voice filled with heaviness said, “No, I don’t think we’ll ever get married.”

“Bassa,”* he said in a half-hearted attempt to lighten the moment, but as we started to gather up our things and brush the sand off our feet, a heaviness hung over us and it was clear to us both that things would never be the same again.



  1. It’s not being Jewish that prevents one from taking part in a nativity play; it’s being Jewish in Israel. I have vivid memories of being cast as a sheep when aged 5 for a nativity play at school in London. My acting skills obviously improved by the time I was 12, as I was then (type-)cast as the Rabbi in the school production of Cabaret. Oy.

  2. Even Jewish and in Israel you can bring in a bit of your childhood christmas excitement and memories. I decorated a palm tree in my apartment with lemon-shaped lights (keeping it up all year too cos it looks kewl) for my family when they came to visit and we stuffed a couple of presents under it and opened them on “the day.” Obviously, being Jews (albeit completely secular) Christmas has no religious significance for us but rather the very things you miss –family, food, fun –and was a big part of the year for us as kids especially as we grew up in the deep south where nearly everyone is christian. We also attended a Xmas party here in T. A. held by some friends of mine who are in a mixed-marriage along with a lot of other olim who were missing the festivities they had grown up surrounded by.

  3. You left me all misty-eyed at the end of that.

    I understand where you are coming from, obviously, and i don’t blame you one iota.

    But as a post ending, that one’s up there with Ingrid Bergman leaving Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca for the weepies… *sniffle*

  4. Thanks for the speedy posting, I couldn’t wait for the conversion bit. Hey, better to be true to yourself than to convert under pressure or if unsure. It’s ironic I think to wander around Tel Aviv, one of the most flashy places on the planet, and to think about G-d a lot. Some do I guess though. Jerusalem is another matter for me though, I feel quite a lot spirituality in the air there, but of course religion and spirituality are wayyyy different.
    Really enjoying your blog, keep going!!

  5. Jill, that was a great piece about what it means to convert from one religion to another, even if you are not partiuarly religious. I had never thought before of all the cultural changes that are involved in such a conversion. Your piece opened my eyes to what really is involved in all aspects of religions and the societies they create. Thank You.

    Debbie: “But as a post ending, that one’s up there with Ingrid Bergman leaving Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca for the weepies”. This series (“Not Jewish …”) is really turning into Wartime nostigia. In Part Six, it was “Mrs Miniver” and now in this one, “Casablanca”! What Wartime Classic will Part Eight remind us of?!

  6. Jill, wow! You are very wise for your age. It is real important to know what you believe, before you can even begin to take on the beliefs of another. Your self realization and your unwillingness to allow “the business of God” to deter you from your own spirituality has you on a “real” good path. And I really hope that you will continue to share your journey.

  7. Reading you is almost as good as talking to you..ur the best

  8. Hello Jill,

    Thanks for your postings that are highly interesting.

    Well, I was taken by surprise by your decision. I feel that you took this decision only because of the behaviour of Jews concerning non-Jews (in Israel but it applies elsewhere), especially in your boyfriend’s family.

    This really negative behaviour very often takes its toll I could say for a non-Jew.
    But once you would have converted for love (no matter the traditions that you are still attached to and they are not deeply religious per se), you would have been more accepted in Israel than you think.

    The behaviour of Jews with non-Jews is different than when you are a Jew and I do not like that.
    Having said that, if you would have truly loved your boyfriend, religion would not have been an issue and you would have married him. Your blocked mentally too much on this issue of religion and it probably tainted your decision on your relationship.

    I felt you felt that there was no hope in Israel for a non-Jew. And it is likely to be true maybe! Sad to say that! But love can overcome everything especially when you happen not to be religious at all despite your normal memories of Christmas and other traditions.

    If you would have dug further into the traditions of Judaism, you would quickly have seen that they were traditions Jesus himself practiced and therefore that they would not have been difficult to make them your own traditions later on! Therefore, you would have been able to make them your own traditions over time (ten years maybe) when you will have learnt to know them better. I felt you lacked knowledge on Judaism but maybe I am wrong on this.

    With Christian traditions, as you have done them regularly from childhood, you became attached to them BUT without truly knowing them. However, when you will dig further on their veracity and meaning of these traditions when you are back in the UK, you will be confronted with more unsolvable questions than answers! And you will dig further later on on these traditions because of your contact with Israel and Judaism. The trinity “mystery”, even today the debate on the historical Jesus, the reliability of the texts of the New Testament, and many more problems on the Christian faith!
    For someone who is not a practicing Christian like you are, these questions never mattered before. But when you go back in the UK and you start again to practice these traditions, your mind will inquire about them more deeply than before and soon you will see that these Christian traditions are all based on falsehood!

    When I read your article on money in Israel, the situation does not seem exciting I must say!

    When you will come back in the UK and inevitably assess more your own traditions, you will find empty because you soon will understand that these beliefs are all based on falsehood. See the following few web sites on the Christian faith.
    First, go to the sites of “BET EMET MINISTRIES” at This former pastor Craig M. Lyons M.Div. from Garland, Texas explains clearly this WHY question. He spent more than 20 years trying to seek the truth on his Christian faith and he discovered that Jesus was NOT the Messiah the Jews had been waiting. He gives the full explanation of his quest toward the truth on his websites.
    At the end of this web page, he gives several other links worth checking too. By reading these sites, you will have the start of an answer on this WHY question. At the end of this web page, see also his link See Bet Emet Ministry’s Other Websites To Help You Return To The Faith Of Jesus/Yeshua And Recover Lost Biblical Truth

    Anyway, I wish you happiness. If it means to leave Israel, so be it. But the facts (feelings I should say) on which you assessed your decision not to commit yourself to your Israeli boyfriend might be assessed again by you later on as being unsubstantiated!
    I would like to hope that religion will not be a factor in finding true love for you. All the best to you. Habits are hard to abandon and habits linked to traditions are the same (even when these traditions have been proved to be false!).

  9. Yeshua Hamashiach stated to the Samaratan woman at the well;

    ‘Salvation is of the Jews; God is a Spirit and those who worship

    him must do so in Spirit and in Truth’. There is a vision in the

    book of Zechariah which ‘unifies’ the troubled history of our people

    through the millennia – the two olive trees; here ‘the one’ who is

    speaking declares – ‘Not by might; nor by power – but only through

    My Spirit says the Lord your God’. The ancient greeks also have a

    story like this – about visitors like those who spoke with Abram the

    Hebrew and Sarai; who turn a aged man and his wife in olive trees

    which grew together as ONE……Jerusalem should be ONE in the

    Messiah who was ALMAH and KADOSH; there is a great salvation going

    on in the world today – it is all about HEARING his GOSPEL – the good

    news. The great an holy temple will NOT be on tiny Mt. Moriah when

    MOSHIACH comes but up upon Mt. Zion where the fighting still

    continues. Be steadfast you Israelis – our father greatly loves you.

  10. Entertaining story…and interesting how you remain true to traditions based on the most significant beliefs….that you confess to not truly holding…i have had that same experience.

    the trinity is brought up by one responder and interesting how it structures the answers to fundamental questions of existence…
    The Father. is there a creator ?
    The Son. does the creator consider mankind significant in creation ?
    The Holy Spirit. does the creator speak to us still ?
    Looking for these answers as a seeker rather than as an unfilled vessel has brought me hope, faith, and direction that i never had before…but only by the grace of God, despite myself.

  11. While modern Christianity is a plagiarism, and combination of Persian/Roman Mithraism, and the Egyptian Osirus Mysteries, modern Judaism is a plagiarism from Chaldea, that was perpetuated by Ezra.

    We can trace everything in the Pentateuch, to older sources, found in Chaldea. For example Moses as found in the bible, was based on King Sargon III. Chaldea had the flood story, as did India, China, South America etc, hundreds of years before Judaism included them into their mythos. This is true for most of the ideas contained, there in.

    Did you know that the original Jews did not use Pentateuch? And the original book used was hidden, and supposedly ‘lost’ so Ezra compiled the modern OT? There are groups of Jews to this day that wont use the OT. One group for example is found in Ethiopia.

    Modern religion followers do absolutely no research. They simply believe what they are told like sheep. And those that actually spend time learning, tend to find all they were taught was a lie. Its incredible to me the choices people make, based on what they have been indoctrinated to believe, by their religion and society.

    “There is no religion higher than Truth”

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