Last night I got to be the family member who picks up my cousin’s sick kid from a camping trip near my house.
Basically, I have Israeli cousins up north, and they sent their daughter on a youth movement camping trip which was located about 15 minutes from my place. She had called them late last night, complaining she didn’t feel well. They called me and asked if I minded picking her up and letting her stay over.
Of course I obliged; if you’re an oleh with Israeli friends/family who have done nothing but taken care of you since you arrived, all you want to do is repay them. Often I’m told to “pay it forward,” which I do, but it is so nice when you can really prove how settled you are by doing favors for the same people who took you in at the beginning.
It was also kinda fun to be the adult family member to sign out the minor. I felt like an authority. Plus they all called me “doda” which made me feel old, but in a cool, hip, young aunt kind of way.
It’s some sort of rite of passage that olim go through; the idea of “becoming more Israeli.” In this case, I don’t mean wearing flowy skirts or forgetting grammatically-correct English.
I mean the process of becoming overly defensive and jumping to attack at any flare of doubt or wrongness – the process of becoming more accusatory, more hot-tempered, more impatient… more ‘Israeli’.
You arrive here with the belief that in order to survive, you have to push your way to the front. You have to claw your way to getting what you want. It’s an image of Israel we Anglo olim carry with us from our youth to our first visit to Misrad Hapnim, and really, through the rest of our Israeli lives.
And the more time goes by, the more I see that supposed-Israeli beast rise out of me. My Hebrew flows better in anger and my voice becomes loud and my eyes dim to any kind of patient truth I might normally seek out.
It’s very disappointing and I’m saddened by my reliance on that ‘Israeliness’ that has developed. If we only conform to the stereotypes we’ve always perceived, how are relations going to change among Israelis? How are we going to achieve understanding and tolerance in this country?
I don’t like that part of me and I want to work on toning it; as a conflict management student and as a generally empathetic and tolerant person, I feel that I can retain that image while living an Israeli life.
And I invite any other Israeli – or potential oleh – to try the same.