The responses to my post about the unfriendly woman in shul ranged from “She’s shy” to “She’s a snot.” I think the answer lies elsewhere. First let me give an update.
One day in September while I waited for the gan to let out, she did come and sit next to me. She asked how I was, and I asked her what she was doing. After she told me I waited, and she then asked what I was doing. This was by far the longest conversation we have ever had. After Yom Kippur she approached me in shul and said that because our children had played together over the holidays and gotten to know each other, she was sure they would now be good friends in gan.
I believe that Americans and Israelis have different approaches to relationships. While some Israeli women are friendly and gregarious, the majority are more reserved. When I see someone on a regular basis, say in shul on Shabbat, I will begin to greet her when I pass her on the street. But some Israelis would need to have more in common with someone before acknowledging me. It sounds snobby, but I see it as a cultural difference.
I don’t mean to say that Israelis can’t be snobs. Snobs exist everywhere.
I mentioned this issue to my Israeli friend, O, who recently returned from a few years in Europe. She pointed out that as an English speaker living in a Hebrew-speaking country, I have an immediate connection with other English speakers even if we have little else in common. It might not be fair to compare the friendliness and closeness I feel among my English-speaking friends to the situation in my synagogue. O. has a point–any feelings of isolation among native Israelis might be exaggerated because of the contrast of my connectedness with fellow English-speakers. However, I am beginning to feel much more comfortable in our shul (although it’s been over seven years!).
Those who live in places with large groups of English speakers, like Beit Shemesh or Raanana, might not have the same experience. Wait until you are in a Hebrew-speaking course and discover one other English-speaker–you are likely to be friends for life.