Life is always full of surprises. Sometimes we venture off to do one thing and although it doesn’t always work the way we had planned, we tend to find an alternative path that can sometimes change our life forever.
As many of you know, I’m an Israeli that was born in Israel. I have experienced war firsthand a few times in my life while living and visiting Israel. In recent events, it was the endless war between the Palestinians and Israelis. The wars, news, and stories I’ve both read and heard have caused me to fear Palestinians. Until I was touched by a sweet girl named Natalie, who is now a good friend and a Palestinian-Israeli living in Israel. Although she doesn’t like to be identified as Palestinian.
You get 2 crazy stories in one blog post!
How It All Began – Auditioning For A Reality Show
About a year ago I auditioned for the number one reality TV show in Israel, it was my second time auditioning for the show.
The first time was a few years back when I was living in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area and while I was going through a hard break up. I didn’t feel like myself, I felt like through my relationship I lost the person that I was and regardless of that, I still auditioned for the show. I knew it wasn’t my best performance because I felt insecure, I didn’t like the way I looked or how my story was being presented on camera.
My mom encouraged me to give it another chance 2 years later because this time around I found myself again. I looked and felt better about myself and now I was the travel blogger with a million and one amazing stories to share with the world. So I auditioned again in March of 2015. I came in and thought I gave it my best shot and was happy with the way things went, however, I never got a callback.
Receiving The Callback
It wasn’t until November on a random Thursday, when I was living in Phili for a seasonal job that I received a message from a close friend who was previously on the show. She wrote me that the show was very interested in me. After speaking to her for about a few short minutes, I began receiving emails, facebook messages and Whatsapp messages from the casting director. This was amazing and a complete dream come true, I thought to myself.
Before this moment, I completely gave up hope on ever being on the show. I totally forgot about it and in minutes on that afternoon, everything changed so dramatically. The biggest problem I was facing was being so far away from Israel. The show had already casted most of the cast and was looking for another person to complete this year’s next big stars.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
After a few days of trying to figure out if there was an actual way to get me to Israel in a snap of a finger since I did move to Phili for work. I received a phone call on a Monday afternoon, informing me that the final and last audition was taking place on Wednesday morning. They ensured me that they can’t promise me anything and that it will be a big risk to fly all the way across the globe for a single audition, but that they liked me a lot, but they might also find someone else, BUT that they really were interested in me. How confusing is that?
I was pretty confused as to what the “right” thing to do was. My debate was, do I pay $1000 and fly across the world for a few hour audition, which can possibly turn me into a star. Or stay where I’m at, miss the audition and if they don’t find what they are looking for than fly out to Israel with a bigger chance of getting on the show. There was one big piece of information that was critical to this whole situation, time.
The thing was, if I decided that I wanted to make it to that audition on Wednesday morning, I would have to get on a flight that SAME DAY!
I received the phone call at around 3:30pm and literally had an hour to decide. The flight was leaving Philadelphia to Israel at 9pm. Meanwhile, I was still at work, which was an hour drive away from my apartment and I still had to pack, without really knowing if I’ll be gone for a couple of days or 5 months. I also had to pick up my passport from my friend’s safe and make it to the airport at least 2hrs before departure.
This was completely crazy and basically insane. To make matters worse, no one was telling me what the right thing to do was and I was so stressed out that I couldn’t even think straight.
However, if you haven’t noticed by now, I tend to do extreme things and in many cases, book a flight and fly a few short days after, but this was crazy even for me. So I decided why not! You only live once. Opportunities like these only happen one to a million and worse case scenario it will be a cool experience and a good story to tell later (like now).
So I did it!
I booked my flight, called the casting director and told her I was coming! Got the OK from my boss who was also my friend to do it, left work, drove an hour back home, packed up my stuff, Ubered to his house to get my passport, got told I was crazy and headed to the airport with another Uber, not really knowing if I’ll be gone for a few days or a few months.
Arriving to Israel
I arrived in Israel at 3:30pm on Tuesday with only a few short hours until the big audition. After checking into immigration and getting my baggage, I got into a taxi and headed over to my friend’s house who lived close to the audition location, without even seeing my family. My mom wasn’t planning on randomly having me show up in her life out of the blue and was working until late that night. We also figured that I would be too jet-lagged to drive all the way to her house, only to drive back to the same area I was already at (it’s an hour drive each way). So I slept at my friend’s house, who took me to the audition the next morning at 9am.
I had already passed the second level of the audition and this was the third. If I passed the third level, which very few people do, I would then have one last audition/interview. If I get picked, all I would have to do was get a physical exam and be diagnosed by a therapist to make sure I was emotionally stabled to be on the show and that’s it! BOOM I’m on the show!
I arrived at the secret audition location without knowing really what to fully expect. I entered a room with 20 chairs in a C shape and waited as the other contestants arrived. As more and more people arrived we all tried to get to know each other before the actual audition started.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of this person.
Meeting Natalie – An Israeli-Palestinian Muslim.
Just like a job interview, we all had to introduce ourselves, say our names, age, where we were from and in short, tell the story of our life.
Clearly everyone in the room had an interesting story, otherwise, we wouldn’t have all been there. As the stories kept unfolding and I was eager to learn about all these different people, I was caught by surprise when a girl by the name of Natalie spoke.
Natalie had a presence to her, unlike most people. She had such a positive and kind ora to her — she was humble, soft-spoken, sensitive and there was something about her that stole my heart the moment she spoke.
Natalie had one of the most interesting stories I have ever heard in my life and trust me when I tell you, I’ve heard many.
Everything about Natalie felt Israeli. She looked Israeli, dressed like one and spoke better Hebrew than me, but she wasn’t, she was a Muslim Arab Palestinian.
Natalie grew up in Ramla, a small city in Israel that had both Israeli Jews and Arabs living there. Her mom raised her and her brother like your ordinary Israelis. She feared that her children wouldn’t get treated the same in a country that mainly belonged to Israeli Jews. So she gave both, her and her brother, none Arabic names and raised them as if they were Israelis. Most Palestinians/Arab-Israelis, although born in Israel, don’t recognize the state of Israel as Israel and don’t associate themselves as being Israelis, however, in Natalie ‘s case it was different.
Natalie went to a normal public school with all Jewish kids, hiding the biggest secret of her life. No one ever knew she was Palestinian. She even went as far as celebrating both Jewish and Arabic holidays. She fasted when the Jews did for Yom Kippur and also for Ramadan when the Muslims did. All her friends were Israelis and she liked it that way because it made her feel normal.
Everything turned out amazing for her, up until her high school graduation where her whole life took an unexpected turn for the worst.
As most of us know, graduating high school is a pretty big deal and most of us bring our family members to attend. Natalie ‘s grandmother showed up to her high school graduation dressed like a traditional Arab woman. All of her friends started freaking out and asked who that woman was. At first, Natalie said she didn’t know, then said it was her mom’s friend and then she decided to reveal the truth in front of her whole graduating class! She was a Palestinian Muslim. Everyone was shocked, scared and speechless.
She began crying and screaming at her grandmother for showing up, she felt like her grandmother ruined her whole life and everything she worked so hard to hide.
At this point in the auditioned my heart had dropped! I was about to start crying hysterically and Natalie was crying telling the story. My heart completely shattered for this poor innocent girl. All I wanted to do was give her a hug, although I was sitting 10 seats away from her.
When the first part of the audition was over, I went up to her and gave her a big hug for being so brave and telling her story. Natalie was nothing like what I had pictured or imagined as your typical Palestinian growing up in Israel. She was full of compassion, she loved the Jewish state and the Israeli people. She opened my eyes to a whole other perspective of a Palestinian’s life that I never imagined existed. No matter what her religious background was, I had so much love for this brave girl. She had no hate in her soul for Israelis just genuine love and compassion.
Natalie was nothing like what I had pictured or imagined as your typical Muslim Palestinian growing up in Israel. She was full of compassion, she loved the Jewish state and the Israeli people. She opened my eyes to a whole other perspective of a Palestinian’s life that I never imagined existed. No matter what her religious background was, I had so much love for this brave girl. She had no hate in her soul for Israelis, just genuine love, and compassion and it really touched me.
I never ended up making it on the show. I did pass the third level and made it to the last level of the audition, although Natalie didn’t get that far.
Although my long and crazy journey didn’t turn out the way I thought or expected it, I still feel so grateful for the opportunity of making it as far as I did with over 200,000 people that auditioned. The show was looking for something else, a different type of personality. However, what I did make was an amazing friend that has changed my perspective and point of view on Palestinians. I can happily say that she changed my life.
Although Natalie didn’t make it on the show either, I am so proud of her. She has grown to forgive her grandmother and promised to always tell the truth from the beginning to new people she meets.
She has been now on many talk shows in Israel, telling her story in the hopes of inspiring other Israeli Jews to see a different side that hasn’t been presented to them before. Every time I see her speak with her genuine, loving and humbling approach it warms my heart and soul to know that there is still hope in the war against Israel’s existence.
I hope this story inspired you and helped you also understand that amazing people can be found everywhere in the world, regardless of their religious beliefs or background.
I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts below. <3