In May 2018, 33-year-old Ashlee Bond officially changed her nationality from USA to Israel, and now rides proudly under the Israeli flag. She sat down for an intimate barn aisle chat with NF.Insider writer Leslie Threlkeld between classes at Spruce Meadows to explain why she did it, and why bold action is often rewarded.
In the words of Ashlee Bond:
There were three main reasons behind my decision to switch my nationality to Israel, which some people might not quite understand, as I grew up showing in the United States. First and foremost, my dad, Steve, was born and raised in Israel. Because of that, I’ve always felt deeply connected to Israel, especially being Christian. That’s the birthplace of Jesus and my faith is a big part of my life, which helped make the decision feel really right. Thirdly, being a new mom and having my family in California, riding for Israel will give me the opportunity to compete at the highest levels of the sport — as far as Championships and team events — without sacrificing my family life.
Switching nationalities might seem like a bold choice, but it was absolutely the best choice for my family and for my career. I wanted to have a balance with my life. My daughter is going to be 21-months old this month, and I didn’t want to be showing 50 straight weeks out of the year and traveling constantly. Some people do it and they love it, but for me I wanted — I needed — balance. I need to have a home and a place that I can be — and not just for a couple days here and there. I want to spend weeks and months at a time at home with my family, and pursue my career with horses at the same time.
While striking that balance and being able to thrive while based in California is incredibly important to me, it’s not only about minimizing the pressure to constantly compete in order to ride on U.S. teams. I truly feel, in my heart, like an Israeli. My mom, Cindy, was born and raised in Sacramento, California, but my dad was born in Israel and moved to America when he was 12-years-old. We still have family in Israel and each time we visited when I was younger, they were the most amazing trips.
"With the family ties and the history of my religion, it feels like it's in my bones"
When I’m around my Israeli family or Israeli friends, or visiting the areas where my dad grew up, I feel deeply connected to the country and culture. My personality also fits in very well — I’m passionate, strong and opinionated, all which are stereotypical of the culture. I always feel like I've found my place, like I’m with my people. The food has always been my favorite, too - my dad’s mom cooked for us all the time when I was little and my taste-buds developed to love and crave the cuisine.
I’ve competed for the United States for so long, so I am still getting used to competing for Israel. It’s definitely different, but I feel so proud. Yes, I was born in America and hold a lot of love and appreciation for the U.S., but being Israeli is, at my core, who I am. It’s always been my blood and part of my soul. My grandmother and grandfather fled World War II to Israel and that’s where they were saved and created an incredible life for themselves. With the family ties and the history of my religion, it feels like it's in my bones.
I represented Israel at my first international competition this year at Thunderbird and I’ve been competing for Israel at Spruce Meadows. I haven’t won a class where they played the anthem yet, but I’m really excited to hear it when it happens. Daniel Bluman (he switched nationalities from Colombia to Israel in 2017) was telling me it’s an incredible moment to hear it for the first time.
The team from Israel, we’re all like family, and I think that is going to be an advantage to us - it will drive us, especially because Israel is such small country with a lot of pride. The people of Israel are so passionate, and they truly support us 110% as we represent the country in the equestrian world. I’m excited to feel that level of support and pride.
"Other members of the Israeli team [...] have welcomed me with open arms"
I couldn’t do this without my husband, Roy Meeus, my parents, and my daughter, Scottie. They have all been so supportive of my choices and actions. Other members of the Israeli team — Danielle Goldstein, Daniel Bluman, Alberto Michan — have welcomed me with open arms. Israel is that way with everybody. They accept anyone who wants to join them. I have felt the camaraderie and excitement from day one, and it's reaffirmed my happiness with this choice.
It’s like riding as a family. One big mishpacha.
Written by Ashlee Bond
California native Ashlee Bond is an international show jumper - a mother - and a wife. Though she has been representing the United States for the entirety of her career; Bond has recently become a member of Team Israel - citing her father’s Israeli heritage and her strong ties to the nation as the reason for the switch.