Growing Sense of Sociocultural Alienation in Israel

When I still lived in Japan until I moved to Israel in the summer of 2004, I used to suffer from the sense of sociocultural alienation there. So when I was offered a position at my present workplace and started living here, I thought naively that my agony would finally come to an end. Back then I never imagined that I would have a sense of sociocultural alienation in Israel, but sadly, I have turned out to be wrong; the more time I spend here, the stronger this sense seems to become.

Both in Israel and in Japan I am familiar with what constitute sociocultural problems for me and know how to cope with them. But coping with problems is one thing, and understanding and accepting the rationales for them another thing. Recently I have started to feel so strongly that I simply understand more and more behaviors of more and more sabras, including some of those with whom I come in contact on a regular basis, less and less; I have even given up any hope of understanding them.

Back in Japan I did not feel that I shared more or less the same sociocultural values with many people living there. But gradually and steadily I have come to realize that I do not seem to share with many sabras many of the sociocultural values that are important to me. At least with my sabra colleagues in the academic world I am not only spared this sense of alienation but even feel really comfortable. But everywhere else outside this "ghetto" I find myself asking myself constantly what the average sabra wants me (not) to do. I am not trying to accuse sabras and their culture specifically. I am sure that everywhere I go and settle down, I will encounter the same problem.

But in the meanwhile I am here and have to struggle with this growing sense of sociocultural alienation. Fortunately, I have enough friends I socialize with rather frequently - my fellow "aliens". It does not seem coincidental that almost all of them are foreign born or have spent many years abroad. Of course, I am not trying to alienate myself from the society here, but except when I am with other researchers in the ivory tower I cannot help feeling alienated here.

One of the last straws that broke my back completely is that a certain group of sabras I cannot specify here repeatedly accused me of lack of order. I am sorry for my lack of humbleness, but since childhood I have always been complimented for my order, both physically and figuratively, by my teachers, classmates and students alike in Japan, which is one of the most orderly countries in the world, and order has been one of the highest values in my life. So I have concluded that although I and those (and other) sabras use the same word, we mean two totally different things, and I am afraid that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Since I "discovered" this and other fundamental (and unbridgeable) differences between me and many sabras, I have simply stopped even trying to understand them. Of course, there must also be good exceptions outside the academia, but unfortunately, these sociocultural exceptions seem to be few and far between. In this respect Israel is quite normal like any other society in the world in that many of its members do not deviate (too much) from its sociocultural norms-shnorms, for better or for worse.

I have to conclude this rant by adding that in spite of what I have written above, there is one area of life in which I am very glad to be in Israel in general and at my present workplace in particular - research.