Israeli Culture

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Israeli Culture

When you ask most Olim what the hardest thing about making aliyah they won't tell you it's money and they definitely won't tell you it's being alone.

The vast majority of olim will tell you the hardest thing to overcome when you are in Israel is the culture difference between Israelis and the people of their birth country.

Unfortunately what happens over time is we tend to only see the bad as it is in our nature to notice the bad things and not the good ones.

This page is designed going to try and prepare you for Israeli culture hopefully helping to minimize the culture shock you will experience upon making Aliyah

1. Never come out a friar ("sucker")
2. Everyone is your brother
3. National Volume is Yell
4. People always want to help, even if it's not needed, asked for or wanted

Never Come Out A Friar

One of the first words every oleh learns is friar, which literally means sucker. Israelis hate to come out the sucker. Now unfortunately you as a new immigrant will of course an easy sucker. In fact by moving to Israel, in the eyes of many Israelis you are already a friar!

Now the problem with the "friar" mentality is it leads to a situation in which no one really wants to come out a "friar" but people are very happy if they can make someone else come out a "friar". What happens to many Olim over time is that they are convinced someone is always trying to take advantage of them and you in fact become as bad if not worse then the Israelis over time. This is of course in reaction to your first days in Israel in which you were in a bubble and were taken advantage of many many times. Try not to think about who is trying to take advantage of you, just worry about what you are doing for other people as long term that will allow you to enjoy Israel more.

With that said there are some things to look out for so you don't come out a "friar"

1. When waiting for a taxi or monit sherut(mini bus) always keep an eye out for the person who will arrive to the taxi stand after you. Some of them will see you waiting and then intentionally walk 10 feet in the direction of ongoing traffic so that he can get the next taxi that goes by and not you. When this situation arises don't be shy, say very politely excuse me I believe I was here first, this is my taxi. Usually they will say "oh sorry I didn't notice you waiting", now some of them will argue with you, in that case most of the time you should let it go. I warn you though sometimes even the most patient person will lose their temper in this situation.(usually after it's happened to you a few times in one night.

2.Taxi drivers who overcharges or drives you in a roundabout way to get where you are going.

When you are a new immigrant you are viewed as an easy target, besides how will you ever know? When you know where you are going the situation is easily avoidable, you tell the taxi driver put me on the meter and you direct him how to get to your destination. When you don't know the way there are a few things you can do to decrease the likelyhood of being taken advantage of. If you can always ask someone who knows how much it should cost you to get to and from a destination. Sometimes you have no one to ask, in those cases get in the cab and simply say something to the effect "I forgot my bag at this place, I was just there, I need to get back there quickly to get it" Now the cab drive might still try and take advantage of you, but he is less likely because he thinks all of a sudden that you know where you are going.

3. Someone pushes their way in front of you when you are waiting in line.

I'll be honest, this happens alot and the only real way to deal with it is to put the person back in his place. They may use a trick to "bud" you like asking the teller a quick question, but at the end of the day, they are still ultimitely pushing their way into your spot. Once the writer of this page was waiting for a minibus in Tel Aviv. When it finally arrived, there was only one seat. I told the guy who arrived after me their is only one seat, he then said oh let me just check something. In the bus he asked the driver a question and sat down in what should have been my seat. Now this of course made me a bit annoyed. Luckily two people announced they were getting off a block later so the bus driver let me on and their was no need to "fight" for my seat.

4. You are charged more then you should be or for something you did not ask for or get.

In Israel you should check your bills and ask for a detailed explanation about any part you don't understand (don't get too carried away here, in the grocery store don't expect someone to read and translate every item). Check your credit card bills as well, companies here will upsell. It's not necessarily the result of company policy, but the nice sales man/women who set up your internet account, could very well be getting bonuses for every add on item she sells. When you have concluded the phone conversation write down how much you should be paying and then check your credit card bill monthly and make sure you are not paying more! (I was charged by my internet service provider for a virus scan I didn't want, need or receive). When this happens, and it probably will, you point out their mistake. They will usually fix it without a problem, but you need to follow through and make sure that they fix it! try to have a hebrew speaking friend help you! It'll make your life much much easier.

Everyone is your brother

One of the nicest aspects about Israeli culture is that everyone comes together and tries to help each other out during extreme situations. During the Second Lebanon war hundreds of people from the center and south of the country opened up their doors and let total strangers sleep in their apartments so they wouldn't have to sleep in fear of rockets and mortars. During the recent conflict in Gaza the thing happened, however, this time the roles were reversed and it was hundreds of residents from the south fleeing north. Another more recent occurrence in which we saw 35000 Israeli's show up to offer to donate bone marrow to save a 6 year old girls suffering from leukemias life.
To see the haaretz article click here

National Volume is Yell

For most Israelis there is really only one tone of voice, and it's yelling. It means that in order be heard you also need to yell. This leads to a situation in which even the most soft spoken person starts talking extremely loudly. There is no real advice on how to deal with this as Oleh, you'll get used to it.

Israelis always want to help, even when it's not needed, asked for or wanted

One of the first thing you will notice about Israelis here is they are always offering to help you. Sometimes you won't want the help and you will tell them and they will accept it. Other times they won't and they will insist on helping you and you will have to argue with them and insist you are really okay and don't need their help. Another very common scenario is when an Israeli offers to help you, starts helping you and then gets mad at you for not taking their help the way they think it should be taken.

Picture this scenario: You are trying to park into a tight spot, an Israeli sees this and offers a helping hand. He starts directing you into the spot, tells you to go left, forward back etc... but then one time you go back when he tells you to go forward. He then spends the next three minutes asking you in a very high voice(to us olim it sounds like yelling, to an israeli it's talking) why you went back when he said go forward. What's important to remember in these situations is that they genuinely mean well. It can be easily overlooked, but they do mean well!

President Camacho

Let me sum up the article:

Israelis are a pack of opportunistic swindlers and thieves and loudmouths who harass even fellow jews who provide critical tourism revenue to their economy. But at the same time all Israelis are wonderful people willing to help their fellow jews at every turn. OK.