A harsh culture for immigrants
Israel may be the ultimate melting pot, said Arona Maskil, but it’s also a tough place to try to assimilate. In this one tiny strip of land, immigrants from all over jostle together: Russians, Ethiopians, Poles, and Americans, to name just a few. More than 20 percent of us are Israeli Arabs, and of the rest, nine out of 10 are either immigrants or the children of immigrants. Coming here from elsewhere is normal. So why do newcomers find it so hard to acclimate? Maybe it’s because Israeli culture values “courage, energy, opinionated views, impatience, creativity, and improvisation.” All noble traits, but taken to our extremes they can manifest as shoving and bickering. Don’t forget, Israel “has been on the defensive against its neighbors and much of the world since its birth,” which gives the people a “defiant mentality.” Even in the military, there is “little regard for status and title,” and subordinates are encouraged to challenge their superiors and think on their feet. We are blunt, we interrupt, and we have few personal boundaries: We’re apt to ask you about your finances, your marriage, and your military service. Moving to Israel “can be a cultural roller coaster,” as it was for me 24 years ago. But after a few years, you’ll find that your nosy neighbors have your back.