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Eureka: Answering questions regarding Israeli backgrounds
by Jay Gutman
2017-12-06 11:44:20
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In France or in the Middle East, say when you are from Marseille or Tizi Ouzou, you carry different symbols of your hometowns, perhaps try to fake the accent of your hometown, wear jewelry from your hometown, decorate your room full of symbols from your hometown and fervently support sports teams from your hometown.

isr01_400_04The same could not be said about Israelis and their backgrounds, or the towns where their parents or grandparents were born. Kind of like in the United States when you were born in Portland say, or Seattle, you don't carry signs around you blatantly displaying your town of origin. If asked, you might say you're from Portland, but you don't try to justify your every behavior by explaining that it's the Portland way of doing things.

In France and the Middle East, and perhaps elsewhere, a lot of myths are built around, say, Ashkenazi and Sephardic rivalries, differences in personalities, differences in culture. Some of the myths include that Mizrahi Jews, that is those whose families fled Arab states in the 1960s, may perhaps feel differently about the conflict or life in Israel than those whose families came from Europe. Or perhaps that Ashkenizim may have more of a sense of entitlement because the State of Israel was mainly founded by people whose families came from Europe.


To put this in perspective, let's paraphrase the Hebrew Bible, according to which, and it is thus mentioned three times, that an individual shall be judged on his actions, and that no individual can be judged for the actions of anyone else, including direct family members. That is you can not judge a son by the actions his father or mother did, and collective praise or punishment are not the norm. That is unlike France for example, Israelis tend not to feel too great about the accomplishments of Israeli individuals, unlike the Middle East, in Israel processes in sports resonate little and converts to Judaism are not celebrated. Unlike in South Korea, a billionaire's son in Israel would have no complex of superiority, and his parents would probably try to tell him to make it on his own.


Do Israelis feel close to their parents' country of origin? Israelis tend to study their history and background, and family stories are often told during family dinners. But in Israel the past is the past, and Israelis tend to have a sense of the past, that is that Morocco in the 1950s is not Morocco today and that Egypt in the 1920s is not Egypt today. Unlike many countries, few Israelis tend to go around searching for their roots, and if they do, it is more for tourism purposes than to “find themselves.”


Any rivalries between Israelis of different backgrounds? There is little or no hierarchy in Israel, and few Israelis feel that they are better than anyone else or that anyone owes them anything. Unlike many countries, few Israelis feel that history owes them anything, or that they relate to their peers' achievements. Israel is a country where individual achievements tend to be considered and where few people tend to look at the achievements of fellow Israelis or Jews with great pride. Natalie Portman is Natalie Portman, and represents herself in her movies. Gal Gadot is Gal Gadot and her achievements represent herself.


Of course unlike many other countries, Israel does not suffer from a problem of anonymity. Although it does suffer from a problem of image, as most images of Israel around the world depict the conflict in Israel, that is bearded men with turbans fighting bearded men with hats. So any change in the perceptions of Israelis is always welcome, but not celebrated the way it is celebrated in many other countries. In sum Israelis rarely introduce themselves by saying “I'm from Israel, the country of Wonder Woman Gal Gadot.” 

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