There’s a chronic conversation that goes down when I bump into someone in Israel who I’ve met before but don’t necessarily remember how:
Israeli: When are you coming to my house for Shabbat?
Zoe: Um, I don’t know … when’s good for you?
Israeli: I’ve just invited you. Just call me when you’re coming.
Zoe: Haha (uncomfortable pause) Okay…
Israeli: And don’t be American about it, call me when you’re coming. Don’t be embarrassed.
Zoe: I am American, so I am going to be embarrassed and I’m not going to call. Why don’t you just tell me when’s good for you?
For a group that is notoriously pushy, doesn’t respect personal space, rejects all notions of waiting turns and shouts to express fondness, Israelis are an incredibly hospitable people. Strangers constantly beg to open their homes to visitors. And not just for afternoon tea. Everyone from my professors to long-lost friends I haven’t seen in years eagerly invite visitors from abroad to spend Shabbat (the weekend) at their houses.
I heard a story of a woman with printed business cards that read “Come to our house for Shabbat!” which she distributes enthusiastically to first-time acquaintances that could possibly need a place to stay.
Generally, students in my position are not averse to the idea of spending a weekend at a total stranger’s house. It means a steady flow of home cooking, a comfortable bed and a friendly family thrilled to hear about why you chose to spend time in their country. However, as comfortable as I am in this country, I’m not sure I’ll ever be at the point where calling up to invite myself over to someone’s house feels appropriate.