We’ve already identified that there are a lot of Israelis living in Los Angeles. Just how many, though, is a source of heated debate among community leaders; it’s somewhere between 50,000 and 250,000. (Of course, there are those who claim that émigrés who have spent the past two decades here aren’t really Israeli anymore.) This has cast an obvious cultural spell over parts of Los Angeles, particularly Tarzana, my favorite place to pretend I’m in Israel.
The mercury has moved past 100 degrees, the desert air is dry and accented with Hebrew. Chicly dressed Israelis sit on a café patio, sipping Turkish coffee and noshing on Jerusalem Bagel Toasts. This is not Israel. It’s Tarzana, which a former aide for U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, who is Jewish and represents the area, once called the greatest threat to the Jewish state. “It looks like Israel; it feels like Israel; and the people all speak Hebrew.” Indeed, most American Jews, having visited Israel once or never, could be forgiven for mistaking this slice of Ventura Boulevard for the outskirts of Tel Aviv. There’s a concert billboard for Mosh Ben Ari, a hookah bar and Aroma Bakery Café, filled daily with Hebrew-speaking people; Jerusalem Pizza, Shalom Pharmacy and the home office of the Council of Israeli Community; and, most importantly, Encino Glatt Market, which regularly stocks both Maccabee and Goldstar beers.