Blogging in Hebrew: Israeli women in the Bay Area are posting far from home

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If you think the name of Flora Tsapovsky’s fashion blog — Bicoastalista —  suggests the blogger divides her time between the West Coast and the East Coast, you’d be only half right.

“My two coasts are Northern California, where I live now, and Tel Aviv, where I lived for many years and still visit often,” says Tsapovsky, a freelance journalist and Hebrew teacher who relocated to Santa Rosa recently to join her American husband.

Flora Tsapovsky

Her Hebrew/English blog is a new version of a fashion blog that she did in Israel for five years. And while Bicoastalista is quite different — with a different design and different interviews — she writes it with her Israeli readers in mind.

“There are many ways to stay in touch these days,” Tsapovsky says. “But the blog is an excellent tool for me to present pieces of my life to people in Israel and in other places.”

Tsapovsky is not the only Israeli woman who allows a virtual peek into the Israeli-Californian lifestyle. As more and more Israelis relocate to the Bay Area, more Hebrew-language blogs aimed at Israeli audiences are “relocating” or emerging here, as well.

The Israeli blogosphere is crammed with people writing about fashion, food, design and travel, but the Israeli bloggers in Northern California can add some new themes to the mix: cultural differences, homesickness, and the wonder of discovering of a new place.

“The Israeli readership is still my main readership,” Tsapovsky says. “The themes I write about are universal, but whoever is interested in the Israeli fashion scene will find it particularly interesting.”

Hilla Kariv, 42, of Berkeley has been writing the blog Bissim (“bites” in Hebrew) for six years. Her recipes and appealing photos have been such a hit that the blog spawned two cookbooks that were published in Israel.

Hilla Kariv

Though she hardly ever shares her personal whereabouts on the site, tidbits of Kariv’s life can be found in many recipes.

“I have mixed feelings of belonging and displacement, both here and in Israel,” she says. “That’s why the food I make [and feature on the blog] is a little unusual everywhere — but at the same time it completely belongs to both places.”

Hilla and her husband, Shachar, started their U.S adventure in New York. Shachar, now chair of the economics department at U.C. Berkeley, got his Ph.D. at New York University, while Hilla studied cooking at the city’s French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) and interned at several successful New York restaurants.

“I learned a lot in those restaurants, and later on discovered a new appreciation for fresh, seasonal produce here in Berkeley,” she says.

Four years after her family relocated to the Bay Area, the mother of three launched her blog, and three years after that, she started offering recipes (many of them from Israel) in English on “Whenever I miss Israeli food, I just make it myself,” she says. “Shwarma, hummus, tahini, pita bread — you name it. I make it all in a quick but satisfying homemade version.”

Shelly Gross

Another Israeli blogging from the Bay Area is 29-year-old computer engineer Keren Danon, who moved to San Francisco from Tel Aviv seven months ago. She writes a fashion and lifestyle blog called Fashion Loca-l.

“Six years ago my only readers were my parents and maybe a friend or two,” she says. “But I wanted to write it because I wanted to show women that you can dress well even if you’re not size 0 or 4 — or 6, for that matter — and even if you’re on a budget, which is way more doable here in the States.”

Danon’s blog, which has become more personal in recent years — she wrote about the death of her father a year ago, for example — now registers 800 unique users per day, most of them in Israel.

“I often get emails from Israeli readers who are fascinated by the American dream,” says Danon, who moved to the Bay Area with her husband after his company offered him an opportunity to relocate. She still shares her fashion choices in every post, but images of California scenery in the background take a lot of the spotlight, as well.

“Many readers see the blog as a virtual escape from the stressful life in Israel,” she continues. “During the summer, while [the Gaza war] was going on, I received emails from readers thanking me for taking them into a world in which life is calm and missile free.”

Keren Danon

While Kariv, Tsapovsky and Danon are permanent Bay Area residents (at least for now), some Israeli bloggers are just passing through.

For example, Shelly Gross, 42, continued to write her blog, Hamalbisha, during a three-month stay in Foster City last summer with her husband and two children. Her husband was in the area to advance his startup optical company.

While here, Gross found her 7-year-old blog — which means “The Stylist” in Hebrew — taking on a decidedly Bay Area flavor, a flavor which she has kept since returning to Israel.

“I’ve been in love with California for as long as I can remember,” says Gross, a fashion reporter for the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot.

Even before Gross’ stint in the Bay Area, she affixed the tag “California” to almost every one of her Hamalbisha postings, perhaps because of similarities in fashion, lifestyle and weather. “I think that the Israeli dress style is much more similar to that of Northern California than to that of New York or Northern Europe,” she says.

When the summer ended, Gross (and Hamalbisha) headed back to Israel, but she doesn’t rule out the option of returning to the United States someday — and maybe even blogging in English.

Bicoastalista by Flora Tsapovsky

California is:
1, Driving, java-chip frappuccino in hand.
2, Amazing nature.
3, Flip-flops for most occasions.
4, Vibrant, glorious food.
5, Styling for spontaneous comfort.
Tel Aviv is:
1, Riding your bicycle, stopping for juice.
2, Crumbling architecture.
3, Flip-flops for most occasions.
4, Vibrant, glorious food.
5, Styling like you didn’t try at all.

Bissim by Hilla Kariv

This is the first year ever that I feel truly connected to the local holiday season. I enjoy the cheesy songs (I might have been caught humming “Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer” a few times), I’m having small talks about the ingredients of turkey seasoning and the various gift options, and somehow it all feels natural.

Hamalbisha by Shelly Gross

Not so long ago, before the universe had summoned this opportunity for us, we’d been wondering about how to become one of those families who stop (almost) everything and take the kids to California. We talked about this quite a lot and then it hit us: In order to become a family that takes the kids to California, we have to take the kids to California.

Fashion Loca-l by Keren Danon

We finally arrived to the city that’s going to be our home for the foreseeable future. San Francisco is cool, eco-friendly, healthy, delicious, crazy (Dogs in strollers, anyone?), and expensive. Living here is going to be very interesting.