How to Cope with Insensitivity in Israel

Though I've learned how to deal with most sociocultural problems I encounter in Israel better than in any other country, there still remains one fundamental problem I don't know yet how to cope with fully, which sometimes makes me wish I could leave this society for ever never to return. It's the special kind of insensitivity of people, mostly non-haredim, that affects me personally, and it's the kind of insensitivity I've never encountered in any other country I've visited. I know it's not directed toward me personally, but I can't help taking it personally. I'm still working on this weakness of mine.

What is more problematic than this problem of insensitivity itself is the very fact that these insensitive people are unaware of their insensitivity. I used to protest against and sometimes even curse these people when their insensitivity affected me personally for the sole purpose of making them aware of their own insensitivity. But I seem to have learned some lesson from the weekly musar lecture I've been attending since several months ago.

I wish I could simply ignore these insensitive people, but unfortunately, I haven't attained that spiritual level. But instead of protesting against them verbally in order not to lower myself to the same spiritual level as theirs, I've started using - hopefully not too insensitive - strategies, again for the sole purpose of making them aware of their insensitivity, while trying not to lose my temper and be aware of what I'm doing.

The main strategy is simply to walk away from someone without saying anything in the middle of his or her insensitive speech or behavior. Fortunately, I've encountered this in non-public contexts so often, though I do encounter insensitive remarks by students of mine every one in a while. I encounter it mostly in stores that also employ insensitive people, who have already seen me many times there; I'm quite sure they are also insensitive in their private life. I boycott these stores and stop buying there though I know this won't affect their business very much and I'm the one who mainly suffers, especially if they are near my apartment.

My personal black list of those stores in Jerusalem with insensitive workers is growing slowly but steadily. I only hope I won't have to boycott all the stores in my neighborhood. I'm just curious to know what has made so many native Israelis, who are otherwise nice people, so insensitive, at least according to my standard.


Feeling More Comfortable in Israel than in Any Other Country in Spite of Sociocultural Problems

It's rather funny to realize that after all is said and done, I nevertheless seem to feel more comfortable in Israel than in any other country on earth in spite of many complaints I have and have made agaist a number of sociocultural problems I have encountered here in Israel.

I never felt comfortable socioculturally back in Japan, where I was born and brought up. I seem to have been to naive to think that since I felt so comfortable living in Israel as a student, I would feel equally comfortable back here even as a full-fledged citizen. Little by little I came to realize that I was too naive. I kept encountering anew many culture shocks back in Israel one after another. To tell the truth, I felt so disgusted with Israeli society that I even thought of leaving this country, if not back to Japan. But I also realized that I might be a kind of person who would never cease to complain wherever he might be.

Having been planning a long awaited trip recently to a country I greatly admire, I've started to feel quite uneasy, which has made me realize that after all I can manage better in Israel than anywhere else. This was quite a revelation and surprise for me. Then I continued to analyze this strange feeling of mine. I think I felt and am still feeling this way mainly because I do know how to cope with the sociocultural problems I have here and I feel it's totally acceptable to criticize them both publicly and privately, unlike, for example, in Japan.

The following is my personal (and totally irresponsible) list of things that might be able to make Israel a better place to live in both for its citizens and for new immigrants socioculturally:

  • To start being more pround and confident of their own language Hebrew, which is, after all, not such a difficult language, as many of them think erroneously
  • To start thinking that stealing someone else's time by being late for the appointnemt, etc. is the second worst kind of theft after killing, which is the theft of someone else's life, and behave accordingly
  • To start reexamining all the damages that Zionism has brought about socioculturally and stop discriminaing haredim, who still keep the good old Jewish values not contaminated by Zionism socioculturally (disclaimer: politically, I embrace Zionism wholeheartedly)

Unfortunately, however, the only viable option to make all the drastic sociocultural changes in Israel is not to try to educate the natives but to bring in more Jewish immigrants from those coutries, such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zeeland and South Africa, where such values seem to be part and parcel of their mentality.