This story requires a little bit of background. Some of you may be familiar with the company that sells Dead Sea products in mall kiosks all over the country. The kiosks are manned by (somewhat pushy) Israelis that sell the products (it's just so much more exotic when it's being sold by someone with an accent!). In some locations the kiosks are seasonal, while in others they're in place all year round. They'll usually knock at least $5 off the price of whatever you're looking at (or pretending to look at) if you drop a few words of Hebrew within earshot...which of course means that my mother is a total sucker for their products. Our bathroom is full of Dead Sea this, that, and whatever, little of which will ever actually be used.
Earlier this year, my sister met a former worker from one of these booths who had become a baalat teshuva after being invited for Shabbat meals by members of the local frum community. She knew there was such a kiosk in our local mall out in Montana, because my mother liked to talk about the stuff she bought from them and how she got $5 off for saying "shalom" or something like that. So, of course, sister dear was inspired...why don't we invite "our" Israelis over for Pesach?
I knew that we'd already invited another family for the first seder (we were invited out ourselves for the second), and that said family was, well, very American. Also, Ma and Pa are very American. So, I thought, maybe we could invite the Israelis for Shabbat Chol Hamoed? It might be rather awkward having them for the seder; maybe we wouldn't be able to deliver on their expectations. My sister thought that was an acceptable idea and ran it by my mother, who of course loved it.
Off they trooped to the mall (I wasn't back in Montana yet) and talked to the two Israelis that were there (there are four altogether); I'll call them Shmuel and Brittany. They said that actually, they'd been hoping to get invited somewhere for a seder, but no one had asked them yet. Of course, who would turn them down? They said their compatriots would be flying back to Israel for the chag, so it would just be the two of them. My sister gave them our address and phone number (her Hebrew is a LOT better than Ma's) and told them to be in touch to confirm the details. Shmuel called back not long after; he and Brittany would be happy to come, and could the other two come as well? (I guess their plans changed.) Sure, why not?
So now there are four non-religious Israelis coming to our seder, as well as this very American (though religious) family. Oooookay. Then, my sister calls the cell phone number Shmuel gave her to confirm that everyone's coming, they have our address and directions, etc. This is an approximation of the ensuing conversation (names again are changed), which took place in Hebrew but I'm telling mostly in English because I'm lazy:
Sister: Hi, can I speak to Shmuel?
Israeli guy on other line: Nope, sorry, he's not here right now, this is Esav. Can I help you with something?
Sister: Um, not exactly...this is Chana X, my mother is Mrs. Plonit Almoni. I think we're having you for the seder. How are you?
Esav: Al hakefach! (Israeli/Arabic slang for great) How are you?
Sister: Baruch Hashem.
Esav: Baruch Hashem! Haha! Baruch Hashem!
Sister, to self: Oh dear G-d, we're having a guy named Esav to our seder and he thinks "Baruch Hashem" is something to laugh over...oh boy.
The rest of the conversation was nothing to report on; they ironed out the details and hung up. My sister had fun telling me about her conversation with Esav; we decided we'd be in for an even more interesting evening than we'd thought.
The seder night arrives. Our American guests come. We figured the Israelis would probably come after yom tov was already supposed to start, but then it got a bit late...and later...and later. Finally, we decided to sit down and start, and if they came in the middle, so be it. Of course, as soon as we'd begun to sit, their car pulled into our driveway. Great, at least they didn't miss kiddush. They come in, introduce themselves--Shmuel, Brittany, Esav, and Nurit. They even brought some Dead Sea stuff as a gift; very nice. We gave the guys kippot (white leather, leftover from a family simcha); they sort of eyed them and shrugged, perching them on top of their gelled hair. ("Can't hurt to make the dossim happy, they're having us over, after all.")
We all sit down, pour wine or grape juice for each other as is customary the seder night. Some of the Israelis started drinking theirs before kiddush. We tried to proceed with the seder as normally as possible, trying to make sure that there's not too much Hebrew for the Americans and not too much English for the Israelis. My sister and I wanted to interrupt Maggid to say divrei Torah, but it didn't work out that way--first of all, the Israelis were reading really, really fast in Hebrew, so it was hard to interrupt (I think they wanted to get to Shulchan Orech as soon as possible, whether or not they knew that was the name for that part of the seder--Esav, who, ironically, was the most "with it" religiously, asked at one point, "When do we eat the eggs?") and second of all, we didn't want to take over the seder from our parents, though maybe it would have been better if we did. So the reading flipped back and forth between Hebrew speedreading and archaic English a la Maxwell House, with the English speakers largely lost during the Hebrew reading and the Hebrew speakers largely lost during the English reading. Maggid was finished in record time.
Then, of course, we wash for the matzah. The Israelis go through the motions, some might even have said the bracha, then proceed to sit and chat quietly while the rest of us sit down, not speaking. We didn't want to shush them, per se, but we couldn't really explain why the rest of us weren't talking. We all chomp down on our mammoth-sized shiurim of cardboard--I mean, shmurah matzah--still not talking, while they took more "normal-sized" pieces. Then the maror: We all, Israelis included, goaded Esav (who was Sefardi) into taking real horseradish by telling him it was "charif" (hot/spicy), which I thought was entirely truthful. He switched to romaine lettuce pretty quickly after chomping down. :) We tried to guide them through Korech, the Hillel sandwich, explaining along the way that Hillel invented the first shwarma (lamb from the korban Pesach, lettuce for maror, wrapped up in soft matzah/laffa = shwarma!). Then, finally, "Esav, now we get to eat the eggs!"
They stayed for the meal (goodness knows they'd been waiting for it!), and we tried to make conversation with them and get to know them a little better. Esav was by far the most outgoing and talkative, followed by Shmuel; Nurit was shy, and Brittany hardly said a word the whole time. We asked where they're from, how long they've been in America, what they want to do after they go back, etc. It was, overall, quite the interesting experience. Unfortunately, they excused themselves after the meal, saying that it was late and they had to work the next day.
The most gratifying moments of the night, however, were when Shmuel, who sat next to me at the seder, told my mother and me separately, "You don't know what a big mitzvah you are doing tonight. This is my first real seder. My parents came from Russia, and they are not religious, so I was never at a real religious seder before." He also told my mother that he thought his parents would be happy to hear that he'd gone to a seder. Okay, everyone chorus now: Awwww. :)