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Friday, July 10, 2015

Why do Israelis hate you so much? Dealing with the cold shoulder.

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Aliyah is hard work.  As far as I’m concerned, you deserve a medal just for considering it.  And hey, so do I.

But as far as the average Israeli is concerned… well, nope.  Nothing.  Silence.

Most Israelis are just going to give you the cold shoulder.  They won’t care that you’re an oleh.  They won’t be handing out hero cookies at the airport.

Many olim have been griping about this lately, and in a way, they’re right to complain.

Once you’ve been in Israel for a while, a refrain like this, from a fellow oleh, will start to sound very familiar.  I spotted one person’s sad message on Facebook this morning:

All our lives, we kept hearing “Come make aliyah”, “It’s your place, you belong here”... And than, once you arrive... “You made aliyah. Mazal tov, I’m busy.”

“Israelis you meet are nice and curious of your life and life decisions,” he wrote, “but that is it. Before each holiday. .. silence. We end being among other olim hadashim, because Israelis are busy. 

I’ve been here a year and 4 months. Every day, someone asks me why I made aliyah.  More and more, when I’m asked, I don’t remember the answer... I wish the same people would ask, “Do you want to join my friends and come to a movie, the theater, the beach, on a trip...?”

One man agreed, “It’s not easy to break into Israeli society.”  He’s been here for nearly 40 years, and most of his friends are still other Anglos.  (The blanket term for English speakers, no matter where they come from.)

Another person echoed the first, saying that all our lives in chutz la’aretz (outside of Israel), “we hear, ‘you should come here,’ ‘this is your home,’ ‘you belong here,’” and then, once we arrive, the response is more like “What you doing here?  Get out of my face!”  (He’s heard responses like this both informally and in more official circles.)

There is an old saying: “Israel loves aliyah but hates olim.”

But is it really hatred?  Do they REALLY hate us that much?

I don’t think so.

Some Israelis resent olim, it’s true.  They feel like we get benefits – like tax breaks – that they don’t.  Some may believe that we live rent-free for the first year (not true) or that we get our education and other perks paid for (sometimes true). 

Fair enough, except that if they’re not olim themselves, chances are that their parents or grandparents were.  Somebody claimed those rights and benefits, even if they didn’t themselves.  (Here’s a shot of a bulletin board in my daughter’s classroom a couple of weeks ago with “family stories.”  Notice all the airplanes and boats; most were about aliyah from somewhere.)

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(In case you’re interested, here’s my daughter’s.  It’s called “From Canada to Israel,” and shows her hugging her grandmother in the airport.)

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Somewhere, if they go a generation or two back, most Israelis have an oleh or two in their lineage.

Born Israelis simply don't understand what it's like to be an oleh because they are so connected themselves. Most have family nearby, friends, connections from school & the army.

Where I come from, in Canada – and in the US, too – we spread out and lose touch with old friends.  Here, the country is so small that many people stay in touch with the same people their whole lives.

Because of that, it simply doesn't occur to them to invite you. They have no concept of being alone.

Think about it:  even if Israelis grow up and move “far” from home, they're still probably less than 2 hours away from their parents, siblings, grandparents, nieces, nephews.  I love taking the train on school vacation days.  It’s full of grandparents taking their grandkids to various spots around the country – sometimes home with them to another city, for an outing or an overnight.  Israelis are rarely alone, and never too far away to call for help.

So no, I don’t think it’s hatred.  I just think they have no clue what we’re experiencing.  They can’t, unless they’ve spent serious time in North America or Australia (which some have, and then, they’ll probably relate to your situation better).

Since it’s not hatred, just cluelessness, that means you can help yourself by reminding Israelis what isolation really means.

When I posted on my son's class's WhatsApp group that the group had really helped me figure out what's what because we're new here, it suddenly clicked.  The other mamas realized that we were olim, and perhaps lonely and clueless.  Several of them stepped up to invite my son after that.

Just saying, “We’re all alone.  We don’t have any family here,” could help trigger the kind of reaction you’re hoping for.  “Everyone is back in Canada,” reinforces the idea that they are very, very far away – farther than Eilat, even, with a whole ocean between you and everyone who might invite you for a Yom Tov meal.

No matter how long you’ve been here, born Israelis will keep on asking why you made aliyah.  Instead of taking it as a hostile, “why are you here?” question, treat it as an opportunity to reach out. 

Try saying, “I came because I heard how friendly and welcoming Israelis are.”  It may help you find a Shabbat invitation, a recommendation of a place to shop, a friendly new Israeli acquaintance. 

At the very least, you’ll both get a terrific belly laugh out of it.  And you’ll take comfort in knowing you’re not the only new oleh who feels this way.

What’s the secret to getting Israelis to open up?  If you know, please tell me, because I still have no clue!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


15 comments:

  1. Some communities are very warm and welcoming.
    This post has been included in the very latest edition, Shiloh Musings: Pinchas, Let's Take a Stand, Havel Havelim

    You're invited to visit, check out the other posts, comment and share. Please get involved in our international blogging community via our facebook page.

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  2. It's very true...when you show your soft spot that you are alone and need help, Israelis can be very warm and welcoming.this had been my experience so far. I have no problem asking for help since that's how I was raised

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    1. Good for you! I agree, more of us just need to talk about what we're going through - to Israelis. :-)

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  3. I think you also put your request out in a clear way that people could feel there was something they could do to help. And you didn't seem whiny or unhappy. Good job!

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  4. The reason most Israelis ask is because they take for granted what they were born into and can't imagine why one would move from what they perceive as a country with a stronger economic and military situation to one that is less secure.
    They dream of visiting America to travel, make a quick buck, and perhaps emigrate to. Your Aliya makes them do a double take and reevaluate themselves. Maybe all that glitters is not gold..
    I am convinced that Aliya from Western countries can cause a decrease in "yerida" of Israelis to those same countries. We show them that Zionism is still alive.

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    1. Yes, you're right. And many are from the former soviet union, who would go straight to Canada or the US if they could have. For some of them, Israel is a stepping-stone to yerida, but perhaps seeing us going the other way will make them stop and think.

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  5. Good article... I've been here for 3 months and I can relate. Israelis seem friendly enough but can be very judgmental.

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    1. Well, welcome home! Thanks for chiming in so I know I'm not alone. :-)

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  6. Nice piece. I want to respond to Anonymous from july 12 at 11:25 pm. One of the things I have seen is that the incredible hostility exhibited by olim toward each each other is a really problem with people trying to make it here. It is not necessary.

    1) You are partially right about attitude...I have met olim that think that everyone owes them something and olim that have really missed what Israel is all about. Israel is not what we came from. You are right that we need to adjust to the way things are done and work, absolutely. Everyone has their reason for coming and the article is right in the sense that sabras have forgotten why we have Israel. The wars and other issues have clouded a lot of judgements over time and yes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the street... many Israelis think that like is easy and wonderful in the US because they see it from a tourist view or from movies... Living in any country foreign to where you come from opens eyes, if you were not mentally prepared for it.
    2) Hebrew is an issue for all olim. The way it is taught to english speakers could be better. Personally, I struggle with it and the frustration. I believe it will come but most say that it takes 3 years. Ulpan is only 5 months and taught in a way that can add to frustration.
    3) I know what you mean about people saying how great things are back home or how they deserve better than they have here in comparison to what life was like where they came from. It is not unique here. Russians, not intended to offend, are like that in the US. It always raises the question, if things were so great, why did you come? I have found Israelis to be surprised when I say that things are not as great as they perceive it in the US. I have had many discussions on what they perceive about the US and how different it is to walk down a street and know that almost everyone you meet is Jewish instead of the exact opposite, as it is in most of the US.
    4) Getting involved in little things is a good idea. Alyiah only begins the Israeli experience. Some of us have a history that makes us more apart of that. Getting to know people is how you grow your Israeli experience but it is not something unique. It is simply building a new life in a new country. Many of us made the choice. Others had no choice. This is a crazy world we live in and who knows what will come. What will be, will, whether we like it or not.

    There is something that many Israelis and olim forget. Yes it is hard to build a life in a new place. Yes there are challenges. We live in a time that ruminates of 1933 with bad economics and people struggling to survive. The 16 million jews in this world are always a target for those that are suffering or now, in this day and age, think they are entitled to everything. While the World struggles and the anti-semites come out of the closet left and right and the radical fundamentalists gain stronger weapons and attack around the World, while the World again looks the other way, Israel gets stronger every day. Family here is special and over time, we all build relationships.

    People need to let go of the aggressive attacks, insults whatever and figure out how we can help each other move to better and better levels of integration. It is normal for people to flock together out of commonalities... It happens in the US too but we are all here. We are in the only place where being a Jew is normal and accepted. Forget the religious politics. That is a separate discussion and Israel has every group.

    Finally, people are very curious about each other, not just olim..You have a choice what to share or in the alternative, turn the questions around and ask them why they stay, if they are so unhappy here. It makes for an interesting discussion. Most Israelis have interesting responses.

    In the end, Liat Liat....

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful reply! I had to delete the existing comment because of the obscenity, but have reposted it in its entirety below.

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  7. I can very much relate to your article--learning a new language, new culture, and a new everything takes time.After over five years in Israel, I am struggling with the language, learning what is accepted in this culture and trying to have patience, which is something that is such a challenge! Kol Ha Kavod nice article!

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    1. Great reminder - we all need one part persistence and about a million parts savlanut (patience). Thanks!

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  8. *** I have had to remove an anonymous comment posted on July 12 due to an obscenity, but will repost it with that part omitted because I think the commenter had a few valid points, even if he/she couldn't be bothered saying them articulately. My blog, my rules. :-) ***

    Jennifer, you're a *** idiot and your article is clueless drivel. When you have been here longer that two weeks you will understand that. Israelis don't hate you, they hate YOUR ATTITUDE and the attitude of so many olim. If you want things to change try the following:
    1) Stop thinking and acting like somebody owes you something for making aliyah. Who exactly do you do think you did a favor for by making aliyah?
    2) Learn Hebrew FLUENTLY. All Israelis will happily speak to you in English but you will never be accepted or an equal from their perspective until you can speak Hebrew with the best of them.
    3) Stop saying how great thing are back home. Nothing makes a Sabra angrier than that statement/attitude and their reaction will always be "So leave!"
    4) Involve yourself in Israeli activities and circles. Show them that you are a part of the country and they might consider making you a part of their circle. And making aliyah doesn't qualify as being part of the "Israeli experience" no matter what you think.

    *** this is the entire comment except for the obscenity, which has been deleted ***

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