Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pride and Criticism

A former colleague of mine married years ago a Swedish woman. Her family wanted to know about Israelis, so he gave them Efraim Kishon books. Later attempts at explaining us came from Tomy and then Yair Lapid. Not comparing myself to such giants in the genre, just giving my 2 humble agorot.

We, Israelis have dual feelings for our country: proud on the one hand and critical on the other. On the one hand, we proudly fight the "camels in the desert" image with Start-Up Nation. On the other hand, we criticize the "exit" culture. Start-ups are great, but if we sell all our ideas how can an Israeli Intel or Microsoft be grown?

For all these start-ups, you'd think we have a fantastic schooling system. Wrong. We constantly criticize it, while proudly keeping track of our many Nobel prizes. We are proud that all major global hi-tech firms have R&D facilities here. It makes us feel global, not some tiny "island" in the Middle East you reach by flight. It makes us feel a normal, Western country. Actually, are we more special than normal, and like it that way.

When people are fearsome to visit because of all the "shootings" they see on CNN, we protest vehemently, recommend them watching Fox News and tell them we live completely normal lives. We work, play, rest, shop, eat. We are proud that Tel Aviv is ranked high on the world tourism map, it's liberal and gay-friendly, but we criticize if for being crowded and hedonist, the self-concerned "Tel Aviv Land".

We love to tell everyone we work long hours, for smaller salaries than the OECD average, yet pay higher taxes. (As an aside, our brothers in the Diaspora don't like to hear these facts. They claim they also work hard and also suffer from terror. This reminds me of two elderly Jews competing on who has more illnesses.) While we are proud of our strong, growing economy, we criticize our low Better Life Index, yet we know it's the price we pay to secure this 3000-year history patch of land that gives us such meaningful lives.