Nation observation.

Some nation observations:

1. One of the professors I have, an American who has been here for 20+ years, teaches us fundamentals in Conflict Management and Negotiation. I’d say he himself is a bit short with us, a bit impatient. He’s always shhing the students and snapping at them when they’re questions seem dumb to him. To be fair, they are a bit rowdy – ok, ok – very chutzpadik. Could be because of the culture differences, even after all these years (he’s not the only American professor Ihave with whom I’ve noticed culture difficulty with teaching Israelis).
The other day in class, there was a new student – an Ethiopian girl. He noticed her in the middle of class. He looked taken aback to see a new student and then he very sweetly asked her, Are you knew? and she replied, Yes, and then he asked her name and welcomed her.
It was very nice, but I’ve seen him speak to new students before, especially since we’re all new. It struck me suddenly: Even after 20+ years, the American instinct to be PC is still around. I say this because there’s no way I could mistake the way his face changed when he started talking to her; the way his voice changed, how he addressed her, how he stood. This, for some reason, fascinated me.

2. This might seem simplistic of me, but I still can’t get over the relation of diaspora and Israeli Jews. Mainly it’s in the faces: the way I look at people on the bus, and I try to guess their origin, and then I try to see them as if they were born in the States. And then I picture people in the States, and how they could just as easily be Israeli. And how the face could be the same, the Jewish face, and yet they could come from completely different places, at least in the last generation.

3. I was at lunch at work the other day, and I was sitting with a bunch of Israeli coworkers. I was dazing in and out because we were speaking in Hebrew. When I finally snapped back into attention, I realized that one of them was talking abou a very personal topic in her family. The other women were asking very blunt questions. Their faces weren’t necessarily hard, but they weren’t gushing either. And the girl speaking was answering their questions in a similar tone: That’s life.
People here are just very open and easy going about personal lives. A classmate had cancer, another a miscarriage – and it’s life and you move on. I guess the difference is that people are more gushy in the States. Softer and more dependent on interpersonal tipul. I don’t think either way is neither good or bad, terrible or ideal.
But I suppose I’m falling into line.

Freedom of spee-

…And now for something completely different:

At public lectures in the States, one would get shot down for using Q&A time for making comments and objections AT the speaker, as opposed to posing a question in front of the audience for the speaker to answer in a formal fashion.

At an Israeli public lecture, people don’t ask questions during Q&A time. They make comments. They argue with the speaker, they outspeak the speaker, they speak out of their own personal experience towards the speaker, as if the speaker’s experience, of which he is brought in to speak, can’t possibly prove his point enough.

The lesson learned: I don’t know which country is truly based on democracy and freedom of speech and expression, and which is based on respect out of history of torment.

Grad, you ate?

A little something on Israeli university culture as opposed to what I’ve known (in relation to my academic culture shock in the last 2 weeks):

In the States, university was a hardcore 24/7 experience. I lived, ate, breathed college in dorm, lecture hall and frat party forms. As far as work, it was intense from freshmen year until I graduated. Playtime was around the clock, even when writing papers at 4 am and sitting in lecture halls, oggling my crush. I always had some kind of job to pay some of the bills, but for the most part, loans and parents were the #1 form of income – due to the fact that school was so universal, there was no time for a ‘real’ job, with ‘real’ wages.

In Israel, universita is something you go to fulfill a requirement in getting a BA or MA to get a job. It is not really a 24/7 experiece because the other half of your time is spent working as much as you can to pay all your bills. Faculty seems to understand this, and whether it is for that reason or the general laid-back quality of living in Israel, the workload is lighter (or maybe it seems lighter comparatively). Less emphasis on reading, which is mainly in English (that could be an explanation). Whereas I was writing 1-3 papers throughout the semester and completing a final at the end of each term, now I am (maybe) writing a paper and then (maybe) a final. Another explanation, and difference, is that courses here run for a whole year a lot of the time. They are once a week and stretching across the whole academic year instead of bulking up 4 or 5 courses in one semester and then starting all over again.

On the whole, in Israel, experience is valued much higher than university degrees, although those are still necessary on a CV. I think that intense experience, however, would beat out a degree if the choice was there for an employer. Israelis seem to have more experience prior to entering the workforce because of mandatory army service and the necessity to work for pocket money from a younger age.

The point is that Israelis are working to get that degree to get that higher paying job, but they are also working to eat and sleep with a shelter over their heads. I have a feeling it is similar for American grad students (as opposed to undergrad), but I wonder to what degree?

Note: I am mainly describing the liberal arts university experience. Obviously, specialty degrees and targeted programs are different and more intense. This is a summary of how I view my liberal arts experiences in both places.

From the mouths of babes and professors.

The two secrets2success I’ve been told about aliyah, have, unsurprisingly, to do with the manner and condition of the self-image.

The first

The second:

My Jews & Conflict in the Modern Age professor gave me a lift home tonight. He’s originally from Chicago; he’s been here for over 25 years. Impeccable hebrew, by the way, aside from the fact that his class was terribly simplistic and boring.

Anyway, after a good half an hour of awkward on-again-off-again polite conversation and odd classical music, I went for why not and started expressing about my academic culture shock and my poor Hebrew self-image and so forth. I wasn’t sure if this older academic type would get it or care from the mouth of a 23-year-old olah chadasha (incidentally wearing a light pink sweatshirt, feeling juvenile at that moment).

He turned to me (while driving, so he really has been here for awhile): “You know what the secret to aliyah success here is? It’s accepting that you’re an immigrant. My kids – they are Israeli. Me and my wife – we know what we are, where we came from. We know we’re here now, and happy, especially watching our kids grow up here. My parents were immigrants. I am an immigrant. That’s just how it is. And then you’ll feel comfortable with yourself enough to just let go of it all.”