A friend in London, who is in a perpetual state of considering Aliyah (emigration to Israel), e-mailed me again this week with questions about life out here: “I know it’s tough and Israelis are supposed to be rude and untrustworthy. Is that true?”
Keith’s blunt question goes to the heart of the paradox inherent in many new immigrants’ daily existences – they love living in Israel, but . . .
What one can say, with some certainty, about Israelis is that they, on the whole (and we are dealing in generalisations here), make a mark. With the exception of a few non-Jewish friends in England (most of whom I met at university, law school, or through following Leeds United), I simply don’t remember any other English people. You meet most Israelis, however, and you never forget them (however hard you try).
There’s Avi, for instance, a permanent fixture at ‘my’ café on Rothschild Boulevard. He has an opinion on everything. We threw cricket and rugby into the conversation, a few weeks ago, just to test him. He didn’t disappoint (even though he has never seen the game played, and wouldn’t know his backward square leg from his silly short one). The English (again, on the whole) don’t have much to say. They are renowned for talking about the weather (which, like them, tends to be grey).
And you are always getting advice in Israel (however unsought). I have heard from many a mother who, on walking around with their babies, would be accosted by other females telling them what they were doing wrong. And, when one of my dogs, Stuey, was limping quite badly a month or so ago, I would get 2 to 3 strangers – during the course of every walk – informing me of the fact and telling me that I should take him to the vet. “Really?” I would reply. “The vet? You really think so?”
My other dog, Dexxy, came with a vestigial tail (either that, or some sicko had cut it off). But no end of strangers still confront me about it, seeming to almost wish that I will finally come clean under interrogation, and admit my dark crime against canine. Last week, my patience finally snapped with one such busybody, deadpanning that “I cut it off and put it in the soup. You should try it. It is so tasty.” On another occasion, I got attacked by a rabid local as I was trying to forcibly remove a potentially lethal chicken bone from her mouth (Dexxy’s, I mean!)
The famous Jewish advice, “Don’t get involved”, was seemingly left behind in the Diaspora. And the English, in similar situations, would just look the other way (however strongly they felt inside).
There’s also the unfunny, Israeli wisecrack merchant. I went into a CD store in the Dizengoff Centre, last month, and asked a perfectly harmless question, only to be met by a pitifully poor, sarcastic response from the manager (who then, even more irritatingly, looked to the rest of his troop of monkeys for approval). Israeli men, especially, can be like that (but my theories on Israeli men will have to wait for a post of their own).
So, in answer to your question, Keith, yes, Israelis can be rude, arrogant and nosey. And they invade your space (that’s also a post of its own, as is the causes of such behaviour, along with many more on these fascinating creatures!) But, for good and for bad, Israelis make a mark. And, more importantly, they care.
Perhaps the words of Woody Allen best sum up the Israeli subgroup too: “Jews are just life everybody else . . . only more so.”