Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Are Israelis Rude?

Ken Bosma Israelis are often described as prickly pears - thorny
 on the outside but sweet on the inside!

It is the first day in an ulpan (Hebrew class) in Israel and one of the new immigrants raises his hand and ask:

" Excuse me teacher, but can you please tell me how to say 'Please', 'Thank you' and 'I apologize' in Hebrew."

The Israeli teacher (clearly baffled) looks at him for a while and then asks, "Why?"



One does not hear the 'magic words' too often here in Israel. And yes, Israelis can also be quite rude. Let me count  the ways:
  • They elbow you out of loosely-formed "queues", 
  • they steal parking spaces right in front of you,
  • if they get mad they yell and/or swear loudly,
  • their dogs do its 'business' in front of your house
  • they love to interrogate you about your salary, religion or why you aren't married. And if you are married they ask why you do not have children. 

New immigrants and tourists are often amazed at the 'chuzpah' (audacity) of Israelis and it is often a topic of complaint. But after a while they get 'de-Westernized' and start to see that Israelis are not really rude, just a tad, shall we call it..um...impolite?

They may not say "please" and "thank you" but they bring coffee and cookies to the municipality workers cleaning the gardens near their house. Strangers may interrogate you when you ride on a bus but they will get off the bus before their bus stop so that they can show you a shortcut to that building you were looking for.

Mothers with small children, old people or just someone with a large suitcase are often given a hand by strangers to get on and of buses and trains. And often you will see two people scream blue-murder at each other, suddenly settle their differences, slap each other on the back and then enquire after the wife and kids.

Before I learned Hebrew I was always intrigued about caused such a heated discussion. But if I asked someone, they would just shrug and say: "It is nothing" - making me even more curious. Now that I do understand Hebrew, I agree. They do argue about nothing, for example where to buy the best tomatoes or if the soccer team is any good.

So Israelis may seem like a rude, tough, LOUD bunch of people to new comers but give them some time. They are also kind, friendly and really care. If you take their rudeness and then add their generosity and kindness you end up with people how are just a bit more impolite than what you are used to! :)

The blogger Maya makes some interesting comparisons between rude Israelis and rude Americans in her blog "How to be an Israeli".

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