You Should Know… Erez Michaely

Photo by Jared Foretek

Erez Michaely, 34, is an astrophysicist, doing research as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Maryland. In September, he picked up and moved from Haifa with his wife and their 2-year-old son.

But Michaely is also a global politics junkie, an avid hiker and traveler and maybe even a burgeoning American Civil War buff.

Can you explain for a layman’s layman what your research is in?

I’m interested in how stuff moves in the universe, from black holes to planets. And I’m interested in the way complicated systems work, so two or three objects in the system and how they interact with a super massive black hole, or a star.

I have many projects, but if it moves, I’m interested.

Were you always scientifically inclined?

Always. Ever since I was a child, I knew I was going to be an astrophysicist. When other children wanted to be astronauts, I wanted to be the guy who works at NASA.

What do you think of Maryland?

I love it. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing. We were amazed as a family, driving from the airport to our place, everything was
so green.

I feel like most people associate physical beauty more with Israel than Maryland.

Haifa is beautiful, but not green like here. And I’m used to Israel. You get snow here, which is very nice.

Aside from work, what have you and your family been up to since moving?

Hiking. We travel all the time. When we first moved, we bought a car and drove to Quebec. We spent a lot of time up north in Maine and Massachusetts. We’ve been all around. We went to Virginia, Shenandoah. And we recently went to Gettysburg to get some local American history. It was amazing, I’ve always been interested in the American Civil War and it was great to be an active student.

You said your long-term goal is to move back to Israel. How do you view raising a child on multiple continents?

We completely see this as an advantage. This is a good thing. He will see different cultures and he will know English better than I do. And it will make him more accepting as an adult. The U.S. is very welcoming, despite what everybody says. People are extremely friendly.

What do you miss the most?

Family and friends, that’s by far the most important thing. But for everyday life, I would say the food. I haven’t had a decent pita since I arrived. And coffee. Americans don’t know how to make coffee. This brewed coffee is very bad, you should all stop doing that. We just drink espresso.

Other than that, the culture is very similar. Israeli pop culture is very American. We cite “Seinfeld” and “Friends,” just like everybody else.

What are your thoughts on this question of how much American Jews should comment on Israeli affairs and pluralism within Israel?

It’s a very complicated issue. American Jews and Jews all around the world have a complete right to their opinion about Israeli politics and they should make their voice heard. The question is, do we as Israelis want to hear their voices?
Israel is their home even if they don’t use it yet. I really believe that with all my heart, that non-Israeli Jews have two homes, one of which they can enter whenever they need. They can get their citizenship and I encourage everybody to do that. The vast majority of Israelis do consider Conservative, Reform, secular Jews as their brothers and sisters.

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