Sunday, 21 April 2013

Scent of Israelism

Israel Postage Stamp: Welcome to Israel

There is something unique to Israelism that can tell you it’s around. After many years of fresh air I could smell it again as I approached the gate at Istanbul Airport that was to lead me to the final leg in my journey from Australia to Israel.
The gate was already full of Israelis, many of them orthodox Jews (judging by their old style attire). As it happens, I arrived in the middle of an argument between two such orthodox guys and a secular man. The subject of discussion was the recent Israeli elections, and the secular guy was bemoaning of the orthodox’ voting habits. As if to prove his point, at least by my own personal views, one of the orthodox men announced in pride he voted for Benet (a right wing religious and pro settlers politician) while the other boasted voting for Baruch Marzel (a guy I deem fascist and vile). The already poor quality discussion soon turned worse when the religious pair attacked the secular for his views: how could it be, they asked, that we have evolved from apes? (Bear in mind it sounds worse in Hebrew, where there is no proper word to distinguish between apes and monkeys.) Their winning questions, as far as they were concerned, was: who was the first man [human], then?
Like its good friend, “what is the meaning of life”, theirs was a fine example for a bad question. Bad because it’s a question that already assumes an answer, a question where the person asking already “knows” there was a first person to begin with. Well, if they know the answer already, why bother asking?
The answer is, of course, that there was no explicit first man. Neither a first woman. Each of our ancestors looked distinctly like its parents. However, if you were to sample your 100,000th grandparent you would see someone looking very ape like (forgive me for making it sound as if us humans are no longer apes); and if you were to go much further down the line you would meet a fish like ancestor. Go even further and you’ll meet a super grandfather who was (and perhaps still is) a bacterium.
My point, however, has nothing to do with science. My point is you won’t such arguments between perfect strangers who happen to share a country of residence in any gate other than the one heading for Israel. And it says a lot about what it is to be an Israeli and what Israel’s culture is like: the aggressive, no holding back nature; the explicitness; and more importantly, the sense of superiority over other nationalities/religions. Welcome to Israel!

Image by karen horton, Creative Commons license

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