2014-05-23

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.