I’m not the only American Jew with a love/hate relationship with Israel, but my reasons are psycho-social, not political. During the past ten (!) years of my life, I’ve lived in Israel three times and visited tens of times. While Israel is absolutely amazing and wonderful, it’s far from perfect, and those imperfections leave me incomplete, time after time. Here’s why I love Israel better when I’m not in it.
The “I’m-Not-A-Friar” Mentality
Israel is a country with deep social and psychological struggles, for a number of reasons. As a sad result, everyone is terrified of being overworked, under-appreciated, over burdened, and abused. Instead of being kinder and more careful regarding others’ wants and needs, people always (yes, always) say “ani lo friar!” which is Hebrew for “no, I will not be taken advantage of!” and end up just taking advantage of everyone around them, including people they love. Stop it. I can’t. I cannot. Staaaahp!
The “I-Know-You-Better-Thank-You-Know-Yourself” Effect
Attention Israelis: no, you’re not an expert on every single topic everyone else has ever brought up in the history of the universe. Sorry to shock you with something nobody has ever told you. People all over have an ugly habit of being quick to judge those around them, but have zero interest in questioning (G-d forbid!) their own lousy behavior. Complete strangers, friends, family members, colleagues, youth, elderly, black, white – makes no difference who is judging you, but you’re always being judged. For everything. From how you walk your dog, to what you order at dinner. At first I thought it came from a place of warmth and caring, but now I believe it comes from a place of being desperate for approval and authority.
The Lack of Common Courtesy
I don’t blame the Israelis, I blame the mothers who have taught them to believe they are better than others, should put themselves first, and can do no harm. Oh puh-leazzz. Your kid needs to learn from an early age that she needs to wait her turn. Your son needs to know that if he wants a lady, he needs to be a gentleman. Tel Aviv needs to understand that pretentiousness is ugly (especially when you have nothing to show for it, other than your stupid beard. Shave it off, ew). I’m not saying Tel Aviv isn’t an incredibly fun and unique place that’s heaven for liberals, people of all sexual beliefs, beach and party-lovers, and anyone who knows how to have fun with not needing much to do so – but Tel Aviv will never be Tokyo or Manhattan, and that’s okay. Get over it, handle it, embrace it.
The Non-Stop Fighting
I’m not referring to our not-so-friendly neighbors. I’m talking about how to get what you want (and in most cases, flat out deserve), you need to yell. Or cry. Or make a big balagan in one way or another. Everything is a fight. The customer is always wrong. Service is almost nonexistent. True, you can make a fuss and end up getting pretty much whatever you want, and this has its undeniable benefits, but the point is, you shouldn’t have to fight to get what you already should have had from the start. Very frustrating.
The Cab Drivers
Just kidding. But seriously. Enough.
In short, I often feel that the good in Israeli people is better than the good in non-Israelis, but the bad is worse. The same guy to yell at you for driving too slowly is likely to invite you for Shabbat dinner moments later.
So then the question is, what’s better: this life of more intensities, more extremities, but higher highs in spite of lower lows? I’ve struggled with this question during my adulthood in its entirety, and I’m sure the battle is not over. I wish there was a perfect place, say, on the corner of Dizengoff St. and Wilshire Blvd.
Until then, it’s sad to see Jews taking advantage of each other so easily; judging and criticizing each other so quickly; dramatizing and exaggerating truths so often. Maybe one day this situation will change, but for now, life in Israel is more than I’m willing to handle.
Oh and to Israeli girls: how about a nice little smile every once in a while? It won’t kill you, I promise.
Share your experiences, good and bad, with Israel in the comments below.