Real World: Rehovot...A Jersey Jew's Take; Encounters

Lauren Wachspress

Real World: Rehovot...A Jersey Jew's Take


This is the true story, of fifteen strangers, picked to live in an apartment, work together, and have their lives recorded. Find out what happens, when people stop being polite, and start getting real… The Real World Rehovot!

By Lauren Wachspress




            The first day my Birmingham-native teacher introduced me to her fifth graders, she had them practice their English by asking me questions. Who- What- Where, she wrote in the center of the white board in blue marker. For the remaining thirty minutes of the period, I wrote my answers in green under her blue questions, dictated by the kids.




            “Wha- Whuz- Whut iz…”

            “What’s! Yofee! What’s…” she encouraged the blue eyed boy to continue.

            “Whuz your email?”

            “Aw, so cute,” she whispered to me as she wrote it on the board. He smiled, and then his hand shot up again.

            “Another one? Sure! Yes?”

            “Whut iz, What’s your…” Then he switched to Hebrew with a puzzled look.

            “Ah…haha, yes okay.” The teacher took the blue and said slowly, “credit card, okay? Credit card number.”

            Underneath the question I wrote, That’s classified. I raised my pointer finger to my lips, “Secret.” The class laughed.

            But everything’s simpler with kids. With adults, the barriers layer thicker, as those on the other side become all the more desperate to break through them.

            I met a lanky Israeli man with scattered ink on his bare arms and calves. We sat across from each other at a mutual friend’s house, and for the first twenty minutes, I mostly turned to my right to talk with my friend. He had previously emphasized his lack of English skills, so I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable.

            When she got up to change the music, she returned to the opposite side of the room to chat with the tatted guy’s friend. So the tatted guy drank his beer and smiled politely at me with the right side of his mouth. I tried asking him about music, but after Bob Marley, we didn’t get much further. He kept insisting his English wasn’t good, but he wanted to move to Brooklyn.

            About twelve songs and two beers later, I asked him about his body art.

            “No, no.” He pointed to the ones on his arms, “These --- no more --- I don’t like,” he looked directly at me with frustrated brows, “from jail but no more, free for two months. No more.”

            “Wow.” I couldn’t stop myself. “But what did they mean? You got them all in jail?”

            “I don’t want to tell…maybe in an hour.”

            “An hour?” I picked up my phone to look at the time. “Okay, sure.”

            My friend returned to my side shortly after and began translating when all else failed.

            “India tomorrow,” the man said. “When I get there…first I smoke.” He laughed.

            Then they all spoke in Hebrew for a bit. my friend said something about a year in India.

            “Wait, a whole year? Why? Lama? Lama?”

            He didn’t even try to answer me in English. He blurted out some fast Hebrew. My friend turned to me and said, “He says you know why --- he says he told you about jail…” She looked confused.

            “Oh, because you’re free and want to explore the world!” He nodded feverishly.





            Three days later I saw him on the bus. I was on my way to school with two other American fellows. We waved.

            “Do you know…why,” he started like he’d been practicing all that time, “Why here, no India?”

            “Um no, why?”

            “Because jail, I can’t leave country,” he held up a single finger, “one year!”

            My friend sitting behind him made eyes at our friend next to me, wondering who the heck I was talking to and how we could possibly know each other. I tried hard not to laugh at her surprise. I tried to stay composed in order to empathize with this man who so desperately wanted some part of himself to be understood to this strange young American.

            “I’m so sorry. India will be waiting for you.” It was all I could come up with on the spot and who knows if he understood.


It didn’t matter what I said or what he understood, sometimes it's more important to let others speak their piece.


I saw him two days later on my way to school. He mouthed, Good morning.


Lauren is a Fellow of Ma'ase Olam's Masa Israel Teaching Fellow program. For more information about her experience and the program email