I moved to Israel six years ago. How that happened:
I am Jewish (you probably guessed) and bought into the idea that it is our ancestral homeland.
After being taken on one of those free two weeks tours, I became captivated by the country and planned to move there. It took a few years of planning for that wish to come to fruition.
To be honest, I still believe in Jewish people's right to be here and that a Jewish country is the only natural environment for a Jew (particularly an observant one) to live in. I just happen not to like the one country that fits that criteria very much, or many of its citizens - and that also happens to be the country I live in!
I also believe that is Israel's responsibility to help realize a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian "problem". In my view, that is not reconcilable with endlessly occupying the land they live on and subjecting them to military law. But that aside...
The Israel I visited as a tourist and the Israel I live in as a citizen are like two completely countries. So much so that if I were a conspiracy theorist (I am not!), I would practically believe the whole thing was an illusion.
Manners (Or Lack Thereof)
For whatever reason, manners are virtually absent here
The stereotypes are 100% true.
Maybe I missed that earlier? I'm not sure, because some people with parents who were born here have told me that people have become ruder and more aggressive over the years. I tend to believe it.
You buy stuff in the market and shopkeepers just glare at you and slam your change on the counter without even bothering to say "thank you"
I feel like if someone tried that in NYC they might be asking for a fight!
Not a single person in my building knows how to close their door. My table jars every few minutes from the vibration of people slamming their doors.
People play music at all hours. And blare private conversations over their phone's loudspeakers because they can't be bothered bringing the handset to their ears. This varies a little by city (Tel Aviv is slightly more refined), but in general the culture is incredibly inconsiderate. Shouting is very commonplace (of course, it's just a "friendly argument"), honking on the roads is incessant, and people are too inpatient and inconsiderate to be able to form a queue. People will push grandmothers out of the way to get on a bus sooner. If it weren't sad, it would be funny. Social cohesion is sorely lacking
, IMO, as evidenced by the massive amount of splinter and minority parties that form before every election.
Everybody is in a tribe or, if not, an "enemy" (read: an Arab).
The sad and blunt truth is that it's a crude, racist society
that even has a problem with some of its own (see: treatment of Ethiopian Jews).
(BTW, this is something that gets discussed a lot among Jews that voluntarily move here. People come up with all manner of BS excuses to justify it. "It's directness." No, it's atrocious manners. "There are no words for basic courtesies in Hebrew". Yes, there are - open a dictionary! "It's Middle Eastern". Travel to Egypt and Jordan. People have manners there. Unfortunately, most people that have negative things to say about the country get silenced by the aggressive "nothing can be wrong here" brigade.)
Prices are insanely high
and, as far as I can tell, the situation is only getting worse.
Generally, those prices are for crappy products imported from China and heavily marked up. Or the local stuff sold by a company that is part of an oligopoly and would never survive in a free market environment. Customer service is almost non-existent - or at least, has the local twist which is "the customer is always wrong".
And of course - those wonderful overpriced products and services are sold to you by often rude ungrateful people. Working here also flat out sucks
The world has bought into the myth that Israel is a land of amazing startups where everybody is swimming in opportunity.
The reality is that more than 90% of the economy is employed in protectionist dysfunctional companies and Israel has one of the lowest per-capita productivity rates in the OECD
(feel free to check the numbers - it's late at night here and I'm trying not to lose the 'flow' of this). It's capitalism with all the benefits taken out. The socialist/kibbutznik backbone that formed the society is dead. Income inequality, as measured by the Geni coefficient, is among the highest in the world.
If you're not a Java developer or help run one of the ports (don't ask - monopoly!) you can expect to be paid a salary roughly a third lower than the West - while living in one of the most expensive countries in the world. A good chunk of immigrants here are employed in scam industries, including (but not limited to) binary, forex, and other international "scams." They attempted to regulate these, but due to corruption and cronyism, largely failed. Just as they attempted to pass a fair rental law which had about the same result.
To add insult to injury ****, Israelis are C-H-E-A-P***\
* in my opinion (given the pejorative Jewish-money stereotypes, I realize that this is something that would be problematic/difficult for a non-Jew to assert).
You see this in the workplace. You're expected to work like a slave while your miserly employer tries his best haggling skills to pay you as little as possible. Unsurprisingly, Israelis founded Fiverr and have proven very eager exponents of the offshoring model, where they can find people willing to work for even less than olim hadashim
(Jewish immigrants). Israelis love bargaining and will treat anything that involves money as a game whereby they attempt to keep as much of it as possible.
In terms of conditions - the minimum number of vacation days are 12 while the working week is 45 hours
. Again, for pretty miserable salaries. Public holidays, which are relatively few, do not roll over if they fall out on a weekend. In general, a cultural of professionalism is sorely lacking. My strongly held opinion is that the best have already left.
Also: a bunch of Israelis sponge off their families until well over their forties. The country is also awash with Jewish immigrants who mysteriously seem to survive despite never having held a job in their life. The explanation? Their familiar are sponsoring them.
Religious Coercion / Weekends
Because of the Jewish Sabbath (during which public transport does not run; shops start closing half-way through Friday), you never even really feel like you've had a proper weekend.
Property is the worst of all. Astronomically expensive. Taxes on new cars are almost 100%
so almost everybody drives beat-up second hand ones, if they have one at all (it's considered a luxury). And the standards of housing - from anybody comparing it to the West - is relatively abysmal. There's a great Facebook page with some photos of the worst rentals on the market. Even if you don't read Hebrew, just take a look at some of the photos
The first generations that came here have done a nice job at monopolizing large segments of the market and housing stock so are well taken care of.
For virtually anybody else, their future is renting
(from rude slumlords!) Hotel prices are also outrageous
, and there's the added insult of having to pay more for rooms if you're from the country
. People here literally fly to Europe because it's cheaper than staycationing in this ripoff!
Want to console yourself about that with a nice mango? Even fruit here has become expensive recently. The only thing that's cheaper here than the West is healthcare and public transport. It's a great country to be on the breadline in. To thrive financially? Not so much.
The public endlessly votes for a lying, corrupt prime minister
who has just let the parliament dissolve in his pathetic bid to avoid fraud charges.
The country is apparently rapidly descending into a religious dictatorship and nobody seems to care
- yet it still has the nerve to call itself "the only democracy in the Middle East."
The school system is failing and a segment of the population which doesn't work or paid taxes (the ultra-Orthodox) have somehow wound up in the position where they pull all the political strings.
People, for a reason I can never understand, generally seem to simply accept the status quo.
They are content with simply surviving and not being obliterated by Iran/Hamas/Hizbullah. As someone that didn't grow up in that security environment, this seems baffling to me. I feel like grabbing hold of one of Netanyahu's voters and asking him/her "That's truly all you aspire towards?"
The most that happens is some journalist (automatically branded a "leftist" by the right-wing majority) writes some article in the Opinion section of Ha'aretz. The last time people got out on the street to protest in significant numbers was years ago
(remember the cottage cheese protests?). In Greece, the riot police get called out to put down mass protests. Here, people are happy to simply survive (sort of).
Why does the average person here vote for Netanyahu?
You know, because things are so great here and some third-world tycoon has been to visit (this is advertised as "unprecedented diplomatic achievements.").
Oh, and the economy has "never been stronger" (even though the country also has an enormous poverty problem and many people are struggling to simply get by).
I have a bad habit of checking Google News every few hours.
Reading those articles just makes me angry.
But it's really nothing more than a reflection of how people are on the street. Rude. Aggressive. Argumentative. Demanding. Always in the fricking right. Also locals here literally never apologize for anything
(that would be considered too "weak" to fit in with the local culture).
There's also this weird fetish with strength and the military
here that I find disturbing. You see it in slang a lot (an "explosion" also means a good thing, like "that party was an explosion" is an idiom for "that party was a great time"). Being human (such as letting somebody cut ahead of you in line at the supermarket because they only have a couple of items) is branded as "weakness" and frowned upon
. As is having manners. To be honest, I believe that the culture here is best described as "sick".
Israel has made me feel like an old man, even though I'm far from that.
All I want, at this point, is a basic quality of life.
Things like a non-minuscule apartment in which to live. Decent professional opportunities that don't involve working for some (usually shady) startup simply trying to use my English to get some investor to pump money into them so they can offshore everything to the US. The possibility of a week's vacation in somewhere that isn't a dingy ripoff staffed by rude people! And to hear somebody say "thank you, have a nice day" when I buy an apple from them!
I travel abroad a couple of times a year and usually feel like I've stepped into another planet. It's like somebody is dispersing a fine mist of Valium from the air. Hard to put my finger on it but people just seem kind of sedate and relaxed!
People are less direct (I'll admit, I actually like the directness here!), but know basic manners, everything isn't overpriced, and people enjoy a real weekend! You can order stuff from Amazon and it actually arrives on time! Somehow, there's no shouting! People know how to actually form a line! You don't have to stand up for yourself simply to not be pushed over!
I'm planning my escape (among other things), but I have to hold this in every day until I get out. I don't feel comfortable telling this to my friends (I rebrand it as "I'm finding it difficult here" without going into details) and I can't exactly broadcast my feelings to the average person on the street.
The truth is that I'm not as miserable as I sound.
I've been doing some self-work recently just to cope with living here. Stress and all that.
My mindset has taken a shift to the positive. And I'm really grateful by how much it has helped.
But it doesn't make living here any less distasteful and actually made me much more inclined to write this here (why wouldn't I tell the world like it is - at least as I see it?).
BTW, I'm a real Reddit user but, because I'm paranoid about privacy, I set up a new account just to write this post.
So thank you, Reddit, for giving me the chance to put this into writing!
If you're also living, or have lived here, feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments.
And if you haven't and are considering doing so, please take everything you have read and heard about the country with a pinch (actually, make that the entire carton-full) of salt!
Some Links / Further Reading:
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