Jessica ama shot
  • Jessica Fishman


Navigating Israel with "Chutzpah and High Heels"

Jessica Fishman felt the lure of Israel since she was a teenager in the Midwest. After college,... Show more

Jessica Fishman felt the lure of Israel since she was a teenager in the Midwest. After college, she decided to make Aliyah, join the IDF, learn Hebrew and embrace a culture so entirely different from her experience as a Midwesterner that it inspired a series of columns, the "Aliyah Survival Guide" and, most recently, her memoirs, "Chutzpah and High Heels: The Search for Love and Identity in the Holy Land." Ask her about adapting to Israeli culture, her crash course in Israel's religious pluralism, defining "chutzpah" and anything else! Show less

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Jessica ama shot

Jessica Fishman

Jessica Fishman is an author, columnist, humorist and open-minded Aliyah who moved to Israel after graduating college.

  • 40935 1517332567432 2912621 n D Sel

    Israel is a country of immigrants and seems, on surface, well equipped to handle an influx of people from almost anywhere. Do you think Israel did a decent job of absorbing you? What kind of stuff can the state do and not to do help new aliyah?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      Israel is pretty special in terms of its services for absorbing immigrants. A perfect example of this is ulpan, which a 5-month intensive course for learning Hebrew - that the country provides immigrants as part of the aliyah package! I don't know of any other countries that offer this type of service for free. However each type of immigrant has their own needs. For instance, the needs of an immigrant from Ethiopia is very different than those from the United States. The tedious and confusing bureaucracy is one of the hardest things to get used in Israel. For me, that is the biggest area that could use improvement. However, organizations like Nefesh B'Nefesh have filled this vacuum. Another area that can be hard for immigrants is integrating into Israeli society or finding employment. When I was on one of my long term programs, I received an adoptive family. Perhaps this could be implemented on a larger scale?

  • Screen shot 2017 03 03 at 3.39.49 pm Jay Massione

    Is there an "Aliyah" community, or is it really integrated once you are in Israel for a while?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      I definitely think there is an aliyah community. There wasn't when I made aliyah so much, but for me that was good, because I really wanted to integrate with Israelis. Now there is more of an aliyah community.There are multiple organizations and activities for English speaking immigrants. One that I try to attend is the Poetry Slams in English, but there are a lot more too!

  • MO
    Lucy A

    What's it like being a lone soldier?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      Being a lone soldier is not easy. It is both emotionally and financially difficult. Sometimes you just need a hug after a hard day. Sometimes you come home to an empty home and an empty fridge. You only make about 4000 NIS a month, which is about $1K - that isn't even enough to cover rent! However, there are great people all around you that help and support you. Some of my closest friends today are ones that I served with in the IDF!

  • IS
    Matt S

    Curious what your parents and friends thought of the book

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      My parents were really proud of me for writing the book. The book for me served two purposes. One, it was very therapeutic and cathartic. But two, my goal in sharing some of my most private and intimate details is to try to make social change by showing how religious coercion and monopoly actually impact people's individual lives. My friends have also been incredibly supportive of me! I guess I'm super lucky to have such wonderful people in my life.

  • SM
    Lauren Smith

    How did your family and friends react when you decided you wanted to make Aliyah? Do you keep in touch with people from the Midwest (aside from your family) and do you feel they "get" it (feeling connected to Israel, etc.)?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      I'm very lucking that I have a very supportive family. They have always been supportive of my decisions in life so that I could create my own path. Some of my friends didn't really understand why I wanted to move to Israel and some of those that Israel was a desert where people rode camels. I've been in Israel for over a decade now, so I've lost touch with many of my childhood friends, except for a few close ones.

  • IN
    Ari S

    I definitely get the chutzpah but tell me where the high heels come into play in your memoir.

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      LOL! In the first scene in my book, I mention Chutzpah, High Heels, and the Holy Land. That is sort of where I came up with the title. I also felt that the title really captured the tone of my book and spoke to its core audience. Plus, I just like the way it sounds!

  • JO
    Jonny Maxwell

    How do other, Israeli born IDF soldiers view you?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      Native Israeli soldiers had a variety of responses. The two most common were either supportive or surprised. The supportive ones thought that I was very brave and Zionistic and often said that they were proud of me. The surprised ones couldn't understand why I gave up my life in the United states, where I could have gotten a good job and made good money, to come serve int the IDF. But all of them recognized the difficulty of joining the IDF as a lone soldier.

  • Willow Willow Barns

    Can you tell us about your time in the IDF? Was it a good experience?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      Sure! I served in the IDF Spokesperson Unit. I had a variety of different experiences. Bootcamp was a bit shocking - in my book I compare it to sorority rush but with semi-automatic weapons. I was older than everyone so that was a bit odd. Then I spent a few months or so feeling very useless in one of my positions. The most action I saw was kitchen duty. Then I moved to a very interesting department inside the IDF Spokesperson Unit in which I got to do a lot of interesting pre-planning for operations. I worked specifically on doing the media planning for Disengagement, which was a very historic thing to take part in. There were also some difficult times along the way , but overall, I'm glad I did the IDF. It helped me a lot in my career afterwards and I met some great people.

  • Blair Linda Burgess

    Would love to win the book! Why did you "feel the lure" since you were a teenager? Where did this lure come from?? Thanks!

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      Thanks! I hope you win one too! This question goes to the heart of my book. But first of all, there are things that I love about Israel - the culture, the warmth of the people and their directness, the weather! I especially love Tel Aviv! Having grown up in a very active Jewish family and Zionistic one was a big part of my decision. But there is something about my identity and the country's identity that intertwine and oppose each other.

  • SE
    Syd M

    Not sure if you think this is too much of a book spoiler, but did you ever find love in the Holly Land (taking this from the title), and can you tell us a little about the dating scene for aliyahs? Or is it Aliyot?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      I'm still on the search for the romantic love, but I did find a different type of love. The book does talk about my search for romantic love and specifically about the obstacles I faced in this search. Dating in Israel can be fun - there is no lack of single Jewish people here! However, sometimes there are cultural differences that can impact the dating experience. I actually made a short little video clip about it, in which I lovingly joke about how these cultural differences impact dating. You can watch it here:

  • Flower Alice Stein

    What are your favorite columns? And of course... whats chutzpah ;)?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      What do you mean by columns? You know, the funny thing is that in Israel versus the US, chutzpah has different meanings. In the US, I've often heard it used as someone who is gutsy and brave. But in Israel, it means someone who is rude. So, I had to get used to when people said I had chutzpah in Israel, it wasn't a compliment!

  • Marc Marc Yellin

    What inspired you to write a book? Did you ever consider going to college in Israel?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      I was inspired to write my memoir after a life-changing event in Israel. My goals were to share my experience and inspire social change. Plus, I've always been a writer at heart.

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      In terms of education, I actually did my MBA in Israel.

  • Me and dr ruth Julia Pollack

    What was your biggest adjustment from moving from the Midwest to Israel?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      That is a hard question to answer! There were so many adjustments! I think language and overall lifestyle. The language adjustment is obvious, but it is hard as an adult not being able to express yourself like you want to. I put a lot of effort into learning the language. The lifestyle adjustment is two fold. One, life is harder here. Things are more complicated. Customer service is lacking. Everything costs more. And to top it all of, everything costs more. If Israel had a tag line, it would be: Get less. Pay more.

  • 21032846 10104823250648922 5026222626064167076 n Miriam Anzovin

    Even just visiting Israel as an American, I found cultural differences in the simplest of things (the Israeli squeegee shower situation was especially perplexing.) What was a relatively small difference between life in America and Israel that proved to be an unexpected bit of culture shock?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      Yes, the squeegee thing is an adjustment - I agree! After over 10 years here sometimes it is hard to look back and remember what was perplexing. I've gotten used to all those weird things and they just seem standard now! There were so many little things from sitting in the front of taxis, people's warmth and sincerity, the lack of recycling... oh, I know! The water boiler! Having to plan ahead in advance when you want to take a shower! That was definitely a hard adjustment! But, now that I'm used to it, I don't understand why anyone would waste so much energy and money heating hot water throughout the entire day.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    Israel360 would like to welcome Jessica Fishman. Jessica is an author, columnist, humorist and open-minded Aliyah who moved to Israel after graduating college. We'll be giving away some books at the end of the Ask Me Anything, so stay tuned. Thanks Jessica!

  • Danhealth Dan Nortly

    Jessica, thank you for doing the AMA! Where you able to find work that played to your strengths (writing, etc) in the IDF?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      My pleasure! Thanks for joining! Yes, I was! I served in the IDF Spokesperson Unit. That was thanks to some connections I made. It is a very hard unit to get into. However, I was able to use some of my education and apply it in the Unit. And more so, it helped me later on in my career. Interestingly enough though is that I actually did all my writing in Hebrew in the army!

  • KA
    Karen Nahary

    Hi Jessica! What's something that you learned about yourself after 1 year, 2 years etc. from living in Israel?

    • Jessica ama shot Jessica Fishman

      Hi Karen! Wow! You brought the hard, introspective question today! Are you a therapist by trade? I think in my book, I go into the bigger lessons that I learned in Israel. I think anytime you go to a new place and you learn a lot about who you are. You are completely independent from all the other outside factors that have defined you over your lifetime. Over the years I found my inner strength, but I also realized how important family is. I also learned that reality doesn't always meet expectations and learned how to cope with such disappointments.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    Everyone, we're wrapping up the AMA. Thank you Jessica for participating. We're looking forward to reading your book, also found here on Amazon:

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    If you'd like to find out more about Jessica Fishman, please visit her website at and her blog at They are both fantastic resources!

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