Society vs. Culture

Ironically, it was not when I received Israeli citizenship but when I started kvetching about Israeli society that I felt that I became an Israeli. And I do continue to kvetch about it. So I was been looking for a trip to New York this week, though for only five days, as I remembered feeling so comfortable there in my previous visits and saw this one as an opportunity to have some rest from Israeli society.

But this time I felt something totally unexpected - I was so relieved to return to Israel. I have realized that in spite of all the complaints I have about this society I can feel more relaxed here than in any other society in the world. I seem to have had this sense of relaxation because I can say or do something to someone else here naturally without asking myself twice in advance and I am most natural when I speak Hebrew.

This new realization has also made me realize that actually society and culture are not always synonymous as I used to think before, that is, one can live comfortably in some society without necessarily feeling identified with its (mainstream) culture. And this is what I feel so intensely now about Israeli society and its native culture, whether secular or religious.

In retrospect, my sense of alienation from native Israeli culture seems to have started quite a long time ago though it is only rather recently that I have come to be aware of it. By "culture" I mean both arts and mentality. No native Israeli art appeals to me, be it literature or music. Nor do I feel identified with the mentality of many average native Israelis. All in all, I feel no need to acculturate here to the mainstream, and I even find myself distancing myself from it though I am not sure if this is conscious or unconscious. Although this may make my life here more difficult, I cannot cheat myself. But fortunately, there are enough people around me, even including those who were born here, who feel as I do.