Although whenever the word ‘Israel’ is mentioned this becomes massively difficult (especially in Ireland!),
— focusing instead on what I hope are non-controversial issues relating primary to quality of life. I’m going to try keep this post as apolitical as possible
I am also going to try to be as unflinchingly honest and open as possible about my experience living in Israel.
This is something which I am not good at and trying to improve on (and of course, it is rarely socially expedient to divulge
all one’s feelings!)
For the purpose of simplicity — but without wishing to over-simplify a complex comparison — I’m going to divide this into two main sections:
Things I prefer about living in Ireland (Part One)
Things I preferred about living in Ireland (Part Two)
Part One: Things I Prefer About Living in Israel
1: The Weather Is A Lot Better!
A glorious summer’s day in Jerusalem on a rooftop
It wouldn’t be fair to begin a comparison involving Ireland and some other country without first mentioning the weather!
Israel receives a
lot of sun ( 3,304 hours of it per year, apparently) but — the population not consisting of sun-deprived Irish people — some seem to perplexingly regard the weather as something they have become inured to rather than a phenomenon to enjoy.
More perplexing yet, people do not drop work, family and social obligations to flock to the beach at the slightest hint of good weather. Nor do they engage in the time-honored Irish past time of frying themselves like lobsters whenever the weather is good because — as everyone from Ireland knows —
“it turns to tan eventually.”
Of course, one’s desire to roast themselves lobster-red being significantly higher the less sun that person has access to, this is hardly surprisingly — desperation is a function of scarcity after all.
However, having spent my fair share of time on the vaunted beaches of Tel Aviv, I am also convinced that said sun-aversion, when it is encountered, is significantly more predominant in the holy city of Jerusalem.
Here, unlike those cool Tel Avivians, people prefer to bask in the ethereal glory of the holy scriptures rather than the light emanating from the solar system.
To my eyes,
an astoundingly high proportion of the city’s denizens appear perennially ghostly pale and also appear to hold the sun in pork-like contempt, lathering the highest-SPF sunscreen they can get their hands on at the slightest sign of good weather. These are usually the same people that waste no time in adjuring herds of following children about the dangers of the sun’s radiation.
While observing, with curiosity, the sun-avoiding habits of much of Jerusalem’s citizenry over the years, I have determined that there is a direct correlation between one’s level of religiosity and the degree of one’s paleness. (This rule, however, does not apply to those of Sephardic or Mizrahi origin, who look as if they permanently have a sun tan regardless of their level of actual sun exposure).
An aversion to sunshine and the great outdoors seems to be an accessory to traditional observant Jewish lifestyle, but one which I cannot help but believe is ancient in origin.
As it says in
Bereishit (Genesis), 25:27:
“And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents .”
So there you have it — in black and white.
Judging by their complexion, many of Jacob’s modern-day Jerusalemite descendants must indeed spend the vast majority of their time — if not the totality of it — learning in modern-day tents, following true to the old description.
But coming back to the weather.
A beautiful sunset and the top of a beautiful can of beer. What more could one hope for in life?
Whatever our thoughts about Israel, we can probably all agree that sunshine is a blessing and, incidentally, Jerusalem’s climate is actually much more livable than that of Tel Aviv on several accounts:
It has a dry summertime heat, compared to Tel Aviv’s shirt-drenching humidity. I advise any Irish-person considering moving to Israel — who has not yet been deterred from doing so, that is — to make a pilot trip to Tel Aviv at the height of August, ideally staying in an Airbnb or hostel without air conditioning.
Jerusalem enjoys almost year-round cool evenings thanks to its unique topography, nestled atop hills above the country’s central plain. (Tel Aviv, and most of the coast, does not cool down at night to an appreciable extent and the sheer heat can be overwhelming.)
One facet I do find remarkable is the suddenness with which the seasons in Israel change — and I’m always amazed by their correlation with what is described in the Bible.
Year and after year, the first rains seem to fall — just as the Torah foretells that they should — immediately after the beginning of the
Sukkot festival which commemorates the annual harvest. (Those less religiously inclined will surely be thinking that climates can, to a certain extent, be predicted; but the first rain seem to consistently fall around Sukkot which is only a week in duration).
Ireland, by comparison to Israel, is permanently temperate, perennially cloudy, and usually somewhat wet — with only modest climatic variations by season.
From an Israeli perspective, an Irish winter is cloudy and wet. An Irish summer is slightly-less-cloudy and slightly-less-wet.
Of course, the sun-drenched and very predictable climate of Israel has an obvious downside to it ,which any Irish readers may already have predicted:
weather-related banter is sadly not a thing in Israel.
For those that are not aware, or who have not visited, the weather is a permanent conversation point in Ireland such that — when lost for what to talk about — one can fill minutes or even hours talking about the latest forecast, what temperature might be expected today, whether rain or sunshine is in store tomorrow, etc.
Just as entertainingly, the weather forecast itself is anticipated very earnestly and greeted with hushed silence when it comes on the television after the evening news.
Likewise, television forecasters accrue near celebrity status and —
as I reported years ago for IrishCentral — forecasters occasionally even have to issue public apologies when their prognostics go amiss.
In Israel, a country with almost uninterrupted sun, things are a little differently.
Feeling sentimental, I once attempted to initiate a typical Irish discussion with an otherwise very talkative Israeli coworker that went something like this:
Me: Lovely day we’re having, isn’t it?
(Perplexed silence for 20 seconds because the last 100 days could also have been described as “lovely”.) Coworker:
2: Living A (Much) More Vibrant Jewish Life
Whenever I have discussed some of the deficiencies of life in Israel with my friends from Ireland (who are, along with the vast, vast majority of Ireland’s population, not Jewish) I can’t help but remember that this point is not factoring into their conscience.
This must make my decision to continue living here seem slightly inexplicable at times. Because this weighs so heavily on the “pro” side for me.
My very reason for moving to Israel stemmed, in large part, from the desire to live in a country in which I was not the “odd one out” — or part of a tiny ethno-religious minority (Irish Jews).
As I mentioned in
my blog’s about page, which I recently re-wrote, I grew up in Cork, Ireland, a city now almost bereft of any permanent Jewish presence — but still pretty bereft when I lived there! ( I recommend this video to anybody interested in the subject; a younger version of me with a much thicker accent makes a cameo appearance).
To the best of my knowledge, I was the only Jewish student at my secondary school. This necessitated doing things such as receiving exemptions from religious studies classes that, frankly, felt awkward.
There are those that relish or are at least not bothered by the idea of being “special” (which often confers the responsibility to represent that minority community) and those that consider it to be a burden. Call me a contrarian, overly self conscious, or a pessimist (I am actually all three, thank you very much!) but I have always sat squarely in that second category. I wanted to be the same — not the exception.
I don’t want this to come across the wrong way.
The secondary school I went to was great (that’s ‘high school’ for my American friends — and more about American English’s strange dominance in Israel later!) My days there were some of the happiest of my life.
Growing up in Cork was, overall, a similarly positive experience, and my friends in Ireland remain as close or closer than many of those I have made in Israel. Irish people will always get other Irish people in a way that Israelis — or many other nationalities — often don’t.
For as long as I can remember (or probably, more accurately, since I participated in a Birthright trip!), I wanted to live in a country where there was no obvious dissonance, internal or external, between my religion and my nationality. That dissonance, I believe, exists almost obviously whenever one puts the words ‘Irishman’ and ‘Jew’ in the same sentence.
I wanted to live in a country where I felt that I
One where I didn’t have to request time off work or school to celebrate religious holidays.
Or live in a special part of town to be close to a Jewish community or a synagogue (for those of you that don’t know, that’s the Jewish diaspora in a nutshell).
I Moved Here to Be ‘The Same’ (I Think)
Keeping kosher in the diaspora typically involves seeking out a few overpriced kosher-certified restaurants — if they exist — or subsisting on cans of tuna and crackers if they don’t. In Israel, everything from falafel stands to McDonalds are kosher.
If you are Jewish and share this desire for
sameness (which is strange, because in many other respects I am a non-conformist), then the list of countries that meets that criteria is very small (hint: there’s only one!).
This, of course, is a little different to the classic arguments often advocated for Zionism (“
the Jews need a country because of the Holocaust”). But it is also, in my opinion, merely the other half of the same coin.
Judaism, as a religion, is intended to be practiced in a community setting and — however you cut it — it doesn’t translate well to a Diaspora environment.
According to a majority opinion in Jewish law, 26 of the 613
mitzvot (commandments in the Jewish Torah) can only be fulfilled within the territorial confines of the Land of Israel.
Judaism and the Land of Israel are inextricably linked.
And so, in my view, so long as doing so is at least remotely possible, the only logical place in which to live, as a Jew, is in that very land — or specifically in its modern incarnation, which is the State of Israel.
My Ideological Motives For Being Making Aliyah
As I noted in the about page of my blog, I have read, considered, and attempted to digest such wildly divergent arguments as those advanced by True Torah Jews and Eim (the latter highly recommended!) — grappling with the question of how, religiously, the modern State of Israel should be conceived. HaBanim Smeichah
I still haven’t entirely reconciled that debate internally, but these days (with some reservations about the constitution of the government and many of its actions) I sit far more closely towards the “
it’s a good thing” side of the spectrum.
Living a fulfilled religious Jewish life requires proximity to religious institutions, the provision of
kosher meat (for carnivores), and the availability of a community (for everybody).
Within the framework of a non-Jewish majority — the necessary and only paradigm for Jewish life for the 2,000 years prior to the creation of the State of Israel — I see no other means for those factors to exist other than within a
And — at least to my mind — ghettoization and racial segregation sounds like a very quick path towards creating deep-running societal divisions and animosity. (
Editorial note 1: I am not too blinded by ideology to not realize that these very same charges could be leveled against internal divisions in Israeli society.)
Human nature being human nature, many choose the path of lesser resistance and simply opt to subsume into the majority. Assimilating, but often losing their religious identity in the process.
For this reason alone — and to give people at least the , which I understand as the Jewish people’s movement to re-establish a permanent presence in their ancient historical homeland. option of avoiding that fate should they not want to choose it — I support Zionism
Instinctively and viscerally, I react against any argument in favor of the State’s existence that is predicated upon any external cause, such as the Holocaust and the threat of anti-Semitism — however well-intentioned those advancing such arguments might be.
(Editorial note 2: this means supporting Israel as a construct and affirming its right to exist , despite some of the consequences of its founding. It also does not extend to espousing every one of the government’s policies.)
This photo (Wikimedia Commons) captures pretty accurately what Jerusalem looks like halfway through the afternoon before Shabbat. I really miss “proper” weekends!
More concretely than the above, living in Israel resolves most of the issues of maintaining Jewish observance.
the only part of being Jewish that I find harder in Israel is (ironically) preparing for — because in West Jerusalem, with a heavily religious Jewish majority, virtually everything is closed by mid-afternoon. Shabbat
During the short days of winter, this can mean —sometimes infuriatingly, even for somebody that keeps
Shabbat — that virtually all supermarkets and shops are shuttered by as early as 1 PM in the afternoon on the first day of the weekend. The shops open, buses start running again, and ‘normal’ life resumes only after sunset on Saturday evening, 24 hours later. And by then, the ‘weekend’ is almost finished.
In truth, however — and despite the above — I would not be adverse to the idea of moving to another country solely because it wasn’t Israel, at least on a temporary basis.
I think that Israelis moving abroad for better financial and career opportunity, with the intention of returning (a conversation I have been having with myself for the past five years), is not necessarily a bad thing at all— rather, it is the way of the modern world.
This kind of migration pattern has been a staple of Irish life for decades.
But in Israel — where Jewish migration is so bound up with demographic arguments and the question of the country’s future— emigration is often subject to the unfortunate and unjustly pejorative judgment that surrounds the entire question of
yeridah ( lit. “descent”; meaning: leaving Israel).
A former prime minister once famously and disdainfully branded those who chose that route
“the fallout weaklings”.
If I were to leave, however, I would definitely want to live somewhere with a more substantial Jewish community than that which I knew in Cork — if only so that I wouldn’t have to be a vegetarian again!
3: There Are
Some Cultural Aspects Of Life in Israel Which I Prefer
I will get to the cultural aspects which I
don’t like about Israel shortly.
But firstly let me list those which I do:
Everything in Israel is very frank. Hierarchies, where they exist, tend to be loose. If you’re trying to find the right contact at a company, for example, getting through to the CEO is typically not that difficult. Contrary to common perception, this does not mean that a concept of hierarchy does not exist. Rather, hierarchies are not impediments to accessibility in the same way that they are in many other countries and a strong collective spirit tends to be dominant within workplaces (this is evidenced by the fact that Israelis are very fond of eating lunch, huddled in a group, in a boardroom of the office every day!). As a result of the above (and not by coincidence, I’m sure),
disagreements tend to get resolved very quickly in Israel. On the flip side, this societal openness (in my opinion) leads to a far higher incidence of vocal disagreements between people than one encounters in Ireland or most non-Middle-Eastern cultures. This is the side of the “isn’t it great that everybody is so direct!” coin that sails over tourists’ heads when they visit Tel Aviv for a few days and spend most of their time lying on the beach (rather than waiting in line at the delightful Doar Yisrael — Israel’s national postal service). As somebody originally from Ireland, fond of gentler means of conflict resolution, avoiding such issues altogether, or even, I’m sad to say — resorting to classical Irish passive aggression — I find the sense of constant fighting, gesticulating, and the sheer amount of altercations one encounters on a daily basis somewhat jarring and mentally exhausting (Israelis jokingly refer to this general atmosphere of chaos as ‘ balagan’; and many, including the author, slowly grow to like it!)
Self-criticism is okay. Immigrants to Israel, irrespective of where they originate from, tend to land in Ben Gurion Airport wearing rose-tinted glasses — encouraged to move here by organizations that often do the same (my Jewish Agency emissary, in the London office, must have been the exception as she seemed to be doing her utmost to deter me from moving to Israel!) . Although I have not made as many Israeli friends as I have fellow ex-pats, this is one of the reasons I have often preferred their company. Israelis (and popular Israeli satires such as , for that matter) see Israel as it is — deficiencies and positives — and there is no stigma against pointing out some obvious defects, such as the domestic price-gouging and poor customer service everybody that lives long-term in Israel unfortunately becomes inured to. This (and the encouragement of my table companion at a recent wedding who spent an hour advising me to be “authentic every day”) is partially why I’m not afraid to write this post even if it might ruffle some feathers among Israeli clients — current or prospective. Criticism of Israel by those living here is well-tolerated and sometimes even encouraged. Besides the fact that I originally intended to become a journalist, and hold a degree in it, this is a reason why I find Benjamin Netanyahu’s constant vilification of the media — and his sometimes brazen trumpeting of Israel’s successes — so disappointing and antithetical to what I see as traditional Jewish values of modesty, introspection, and thoughtful self-criticism — the latter two being essential ingredients to the broader Jewish remit of Erets Nehederet tikkun olam. I think that Israel is a great country all things considered, particularly given the turbulent security environment it has been forced to operate within. But I’m not sure that Prime Minister Netanyahu bragging about the awe of the “Jewish genius” is the best look for us. 4: (Vastly) Better Healthcare
If you’re fond of visiting doctors and taking prescription medications, then Israel is a pretty good place to find yourself.
As an asthmatic, myopic, and all-round-hypochondriac, I have put Israel’s health services through their paces — and overall, I have pretty good things to say (except my recent hospital stay for gallbladder surgery — that was terrible, and one should ask questions about any hospital system in which hiring private nurses is the standard means of achieving patient care!).
Unsurprising given that this is the Startup Nation, Israel’s healthcare system makes liberal use of Electronic Medical Records (EMR). Because Israelis are so informal, you can basically demand everything from antibiotics and steroids to benzodiazepines from your family doctor without having to leave the comfort of your living room*
Healthcare in Israel is:
(Usually) cheap. Everything from prescription medications to doctors visits are highly subsidized. My asthma inhaler and stomach acid drug both cost a fraction of what they would in Ireland. I love the fact that I don’t have to think about the cost of either when deciding if I should go to the doctor because my breathing is bad — or whether I need Singulair for allergic asthma or whether I could “live without it” this season.
Quick. I’ve been referred to surgeons and pulmonologists and on both occasions received an appointment within a week — and at a nearby clinic. Compare this to the months or often (shameful) years-long waiting times to see consultants in Ireland’s national health service, the HSE.
Online: You can do everything from book doctors appointments to receive blood test results to ask for prescription refills directly from an online interface. Israel has four health funds ( kupot) and each citizen needs to be registered to one by law. I am with Macabbi. If you feel like spicing things up a bit, you’re allowed to change fund twice a year.
The easy and affordable access to healthcare in Israel is something that I do not take for granted — and it scares me to thin how stressful it might be to live in a country, like the US, that doesn’t have the safety net of socialized medicine for people to fall back upon.
Yes, like everything in Israel, at times, it can be needlessly bureaucratic. Systems that should work together, I have found, are sometimes disjointed. And care from socialized medicine providers can feel cursory.
But overall, it’s a hugely positive facet of living here and something I try to be thankful for every day.
*I hope my weird sense of humor is coming through at least partially. You can’t actually do this. 5: Better Food!
If you’re into falafel, check out JerusalemFalafelTrail.fun. There are more than 100 fried chickpea establishments dotted throughout the city.
At the confluence of so many world cultures, and home to a huge mix of nationalities, Israel is a particularly good place to be for somebody seeking to try out world cuisines.
As I have, by now, set my curmudgeon credentials on full display, I have three interjections to make here:
I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about — even at supposedly the best humus humus places in the country. It’s a decent side dish, in my opinion. And that’s about it.
I don’t think a lot of what’s considered classic Israeli cuisine is all that good — although I do love many of the immigrant cuisines that are popular here. Exceptions: falafel, tahini. How I love tahini! For the most part,
Israelis have a very low tolerance for spicy food despite their protestations to the contrary (notable exception: Yemenites!). If you’re also a chilli-addict, you need to really emphasize this incredibly to get a nicely incendiary falafel (key phrase to repeat: ohd ha-reef, which means more spicy!) Or else go to a Yemenite-run falafel establishment and tell them to make it like you’re from Sa’ana.
Israelis eat a diet that is replete with
fresh ingredients, which is where I see its cuisine differing most significantly from Ireland.
The culture of microwaving ready-made meals from Dunnes Stores or Marks and Spencer thankfully hasn’t arrived to Israel yet. Israeli foods, in general, make spartan use of preservatives (you see this most tangibly in the speed with which supermarket bread goes moldy here. During the summer months, if you leave pita on the counter, it can be moldy by the morning).
Additionally, as a keen fruit enthusiast, Israel grows many excellent varieties of fruit — although the seasonality of when that is available is another stark contrast to Ireland. Is it orange season or watermelon time? The price difference from month to month can be extraordinary.
Thankfully, Israel’s large Ethiopian community have opened numerous restaurants throughout the country and I have spent plenty of enjoyable evenings cramming
misir wot wrapped in injera down my throat. That’s a cuisine I’m particularly fond of.
On the downside, there are relatively few Indian and Chinese restaurants — or traditional takeaways — and far too many
falafel restaurants and pastry bakeries in the country!
Three-in-ones you will sadly be hard-pressed to find here.
But there’s falafel. Lots and lots of falafel.
6: Proximity to Interesting Countries
Taba, Sinai, Egypt
This is something I wish I had time to take more advantage of — and hope that one day I will.
Although Israel’s neighbors are commonly cited as “disadvantages”, or “problems” I’d like to propose a different perspective — at least for earnest travellers.
I’ve been learning Arabic for a few years and the fact that, living in Israel, you can take a bus and taxi and find yourself in Egypt is greatly exciting to me for this reason.
I visited Taba, just across the border from Eilat, last summer.
Although I wouldn’t recommend the food poisoning, I can say great things about the beach and snorkeling options there — and value for money is infinitely (and refreshingly!) so much better than in the Israeli resort of Eilat just 5km up the coast.
Speaking of places you can hop on a bus to from Israel, did you know that there was once a
direct bus line between Jerusalem and Cairo?
Sadly, for obvious reasons (the security situation in the Sinai and the entrenchment of ISIS-affiliates in parts of the peninsula being the big ones), it no longer operates.
Other easy and relatively inexpensive local trips you can make from Israel:
Turkey (I visited Antalya and would go back solely to pick up more of my amazing automatic Turkish coffee makers)
Jordan, including Wadi Rum and Petra. (I’ve heard that Aqaba and Amman are both relatively uninteresting)
Part Two: Things I Prefer About Living in Ireland
1: Some Cultural Aspects
Ireland’s national carrier (Aer Lingus) and Israel’s one (El Al) on adjacent stands. I can’t remember what European airport I took this from, but I think it was Zurich (LSZH)
No two ways to put this.
By comparison to Israel, Ireland is a far more easy-going culture.
When I reach Ireland after the usual stopover in some European city (this is soon to change —
El Al are launching direct flights!), I feel as if someone has turned down the volume on the speaker of life.
And I mean this as a good thing!
Israelis Love to Argue. The Irish Love to Get Along (But I’m Not Sure Either is Necessarily Better Any More)
Israelis (Jews?) prioritize advancement and learning through heated argument and rapid conflict resolution (open a page of the Talmud if you don’t know what I’m talking about!).
No two ways to put this.
By comparison to Israel, Ireland is a far more easy-going culture.
When I reach Ireland after the usual stopover in some European city (this is soon to change —
El Al are launching direct flights!), I feel as if someone has turned down the volume on the speaker of life.
And I mean this as a good thing!
Israelis Love to Argue. The Irish Love to Get Along (But I’m Not Sure Either is Necessarily Better Any More)
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, visit this link. This is obviously an extreme example of abuse rather than argument.
In Israel, where there is a higher concentration of Jews than anywhere else on the planet, this dynamic is naturally amplified.
In turn, this creates an environment of constant
— which roughly translates to “chaos” in English. balagan
The Irish — by way of very stark contrast — are fond of “getting along” in a spirit of easy and sometimes artificial congeniality.
Of course, this is all crude racial stereotyping — and needless to say there are plenty of exceptions that don’t fit this bill to be found among people from both cultures.
As time goes by and my recollection of Irish culture grows more distant, I have come to believe that this has a downside to it in itself — such that I would no longer automatically say that one way of living is preferable to the other (although one is certainly easier on one’s hearing!)
In Ireland, I believe that genuine disagreements are far more likely to go unresolved than in Israel and there’s less of a tendency to do something different, to mark oneself out, which is partially why I think Israel’s startup ecosystem is so more vibrant than Ireland’s (although there are certainly similarities, and enormous potential for synergy, between the two — and Ireland is home to a significant number of innovative startups.)
As somebody that has had to learn (the hard way) to become a lot more assertive since moving here — an ongoing and difficult process — I believe that this is just as often a criticism to be leveled against individual people rather than society as a whole. But there is certainly a level at which it is collective too.
The Irish are noticeably far less aggressive than the Israelis but can also sometimes be a good deal more judgmental.
Failure, in the Startup Nation, is not so much a badge of shame to wear as it is what happened in your life or business before you took a pivot.
In Ireland, those that have experienced life’s travails a little more harshly than others might be looked down upon as ‘failures’ or not given a second chance.
Sometimes that is. Again — generalizations with plenty of exceptions on both sides.
The Irish are known for their friendliness, which goes well with the country’s fondness for pub culture and drinking in social environments.
This is something which I miss and I think that a lot of Israelis could learn from — or at least copy the good aspects.
Israelis Are Obsessed With Aping America. The Irish Are Not
Enough said. Details here.
Finally, unlike in Israel, the Irish seem to have no particular obsession with the US — although I would also disagree with those who would claim that the Irish are inherently anti-American. (I should point out that I interned at, and wrote for, Irish-America’s largest media publication for several years.)
Perhaps the result of decades-long relentless government propaganda about the
“special relationship” — or its more modern soundbite the “unbreakable alliance” — I think that Israelis have developed a slavish cultural fetish for everything American which, to me, feels quite obsequious.
Bibi (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu)and now his son, Yair Netanyahu, waxing continuously that Israel has “no better friend” than the US, Israelis tend to talk in English with a phoney American accent — the result of both America’s hegemony over international English-language media and, I believe, a conscious desire to unquestioningly ape everything that comes from across the Atlantic.
Israel is kind of like a country-sized Gaeltacht for Hebrew-speakers — but one in which Hebrew is actually spoken and with plenty of monoglots in everyday existence. I dislike Modern Hebrew’s butchering of words “borrowed” from other languages and the Ashkenazi-dominated pronunciation with its heavy gutturals, but it’s undeniably an impressive and unprecedented feat of linguistic revival.
I like the fact that Ireland is, by and large, confident in itself, its own people, and its own culture, and doesn’t need to seek external validation from Uncle Sam for that (although, of course, the US remains a major benefactor of Israel and it would be naïve to pretend that political dynamics don’t have a lot to do with this too).
Although efforts to revive the Irish language have not enjoyed anywhere near the same measure of outstanding success that Ben Gurion’s revival of Hebrew has (although sorry to be cantankerous again, but given the state of Modern Hebrew I sometimes take issue with calling it a “revival” at all!), both cultures take a large measure of pride in their tradition and in a slight sense of separateness from surrounding societies. And there’s a good reason for that: both cultures need English to do business with the world, but only Israel needed to revive a second tongue in order to create a
lingua franca for immigrants from all over the world.
Finally — and in stark contrast to their adulation of the US — I believe that many Israelis have an unfortunate
“us against the world” mentality that sees themselves and President Tramp (that’s ‘Trump’ pronounced with in Israeli English) as lone global allies pitted in an intractable war against tracts of anti-Semites.
Ireland — or make that the whole of Europe — are by default perceived as ‘hostile’ territories that (justifiably or not) are viewed as having an inherent antipathy to the Jewish State’s mere existence.
The reality, as I have experienced it, is that while some in Ireland
are indeed belligerently opposed to Israel’s mere existence, a larger percentage of the population don’t really care about the issue.
A larger percentage again, I believe, take issue with many policies of the Israeli government without subscribing to anti-Semitic tropes, harboring any ill-will towards Jews, or denying the country’s right to exist.
This “us against them” dynamic is reflected daily in the mainstream Israeli news coverage which is replete with reports of anti-Semitism from around the world; news concerning Jews abroad that would be considered wholly irrelevant if not for their religion; news about the security situation; and not a whole lot of anything else.
While the Irish are justifiably widely believed to be ‘anti-Israel’ in their politics, the comments section which follows any coverage documenting Ireland’s political moves against the State of Israel often descend into unfortunate racial slurring and ad-hominem attacked leveled against the Irish (usually) by a small but vocal minority of far right-wing Jews.
This is something I find both personally offensive and greatly disappointing.
However — They’re Not Entirely Different
Israelis are often called — hard on the outside and soft on the inside, like the eponymous fruit from which the term was coined. sabras
Like a surprising amount of stereotypes, I have found this to be largely true.
Despite their obvious differences, I actually believe that there are quite a few similarities between the Irish and the Israelis once you begin to scratch the surface — and get past being flabbergasted by the crude differences which I have sketched above.
Israelis love to complain about Israel (
ahem) while talking about the greater opportunity that their well-off relatives in America supposedly enjoy.
The Irish, for their part, often have a “the grass is greener” attitude about relatives in the very same places. (Bear in mind that Brian Friel’s
Philadelphia Here I Come was mandatory reading in my secondary school.)
Speaking of the countless meaningless platitudes that exist in both English and Hebrew, there are even some phrases “
hakol yiyeh b’seder” (everything will be okay) and “ it will be grand” that are virtually analogous. The Dubious Israeli Tradition Of
Shitat HaMazliach — (Screwing the Freier!)
This has no relevance to the text, but an Irish flag on display at HaTaklit (“The Record”) — my favorite bar in Jerusalem. Murphy’s and Magner’s (AKA Bulmers) on tap!
Finally, there’s one cultural dynamic in Israel that is difficult to explain but which I am not fond of — and which I should mention for the sake of giving a thorough cultural comparison.
It’s called (in Hebrew) shitat mazliach which literally means “the path of success”.
I prefer to call it “ screwing the freier”!
It’s rarely been written about (at least in English) but is closely tied in to the concept of
freierism, its more famous linguistic cousin, which certainly has been discussed, at least in Jewish quarters.
(pronunciation: fr-EYE-er; and no, it’s not a cooking implement) means — roughly — being a sucker or a pushover. freier
In other countries — such as when you let somebody at the supermarket go ahead of you because you’re doing your weekly shopping for a family of ten and he’s buying a six-pack of canned tuna — this is know as “
just trying to be considerate/nice“.
Israelis go to enormous lengths to avoid accruing that label such that
“not being a freier” has become an all-pervading national paranoia.
Otherwise decent people may act callously — or drive like maniacs and refuse to let another vehicle ahead of them in traffic— simply because they are petrified that by doing so they may be embarking on a slippery behavioral slope which will end with them being the human equivalent of a doormat.
Some explain Israelis’ aversion to being a
freier as a sort of collective residual trauma from the persecution of the Holocaust (in other words: look how well-mannered and cultured German Jews were before the Holocaust and how far that got them. Let’s learn from that).
Others will tell you that it’s a reactionary aggression prompted by the often unfair vilification and double standards that Israel is subjected to in the international arena.
Whatever the cause, the result is the adoption of a sort of societal defensive posturing in which people are often highly suspicious of anybody’s true motives because … they don’t want to be the next
freier in line.
It can be fascinating to observe.
Sadly, observance of the law often falls into this category too.
Israelis have grown accustomed to living in a country that often feels and functions like something of a banana republic and laws are often perceived as mere recommendations rather than edicts for acceptable behavior.
Strict adherence to the letter of the law — such as meticulously running yoru business above board — is another typically “Western”
frier behavior that Israelis are not fond of emulating. This phenomenon might also explain why Israel has a corruption problem.
And then there’s another dimension.
fraier-avoiders are trying so assiduously to avoid is falling victim to shitat m azliach which roughly translates to “chancing one’s arm.”
But, put a little more elaborately, it really means:
“asking somebody to do something entirely unreasonable, and hoping they say yes” (because they are a frier).
If they are inded a
frier and say yes — you win (hence the name)!
If not — nothing lost save a minor dent on your self-respect.
(There’s a translation for this tactic that I prefer: taking advantage of people!)
Salary negotiations are another thorny cultural issue for immigrants to contend with in which this dynamic is constantly at play.
In Israel, it’s expected for the candidate to demand a slightly to substantially unrealistic stretch salary which the Israeli employer will by default then haggle down until you reach the actual salary the company is prepared to offer. Alternatively, the Israeli employer will tender a salary offer far below market value hoping the
frier candidate will say yes — but a seasoned job-seeker must know to play them at their own game.
Perhaps I’m just a bad negotiator, but personally, I find this process obnoxious and would much rather state a salary expectation and then stick to my guns — neither expecting more nor prepared to settle for less. But I have been told by recruiters that this would be highly inadvisable.
Some further manifestations of this attitude — at both the governmental and individual level include:
Many Israelis rarely apologize — for anything at all.
Many Israelis, and Israel, are always right. This can be kind of obnoxious. 2: Relative to Israel, Ireland Has A More Favorable Cost of Living
Ireland is not cheap but, by comparison to Israel, I believe that it offers better value for money.
And (for most workers not in the IT space, that is) I would argue
a higher real income.
To truly understand why, you need to look at the big picture and understand a few concurrent factors at play in modern Israel:
Israel has developed one of the — probably a result of the unfettered capitalism brought in by successive Netanyahu governments and in stark contrast to the country’s socialist underpinnings. highest costs of living in the developed world
According to the Taub Center’s (an index commonly used as a yardstick for judging economics in the developed world.) State of the Nation Report Israel’s price index is 23% higher than the OECD average To compound that national trend, the Economist Intelligence Unit
, sharing that dubious “honor” with Los Angeles and coming in three places behind New York. Jerusalem is a little further down the league table, but not by all that much. recently named Tel Aviv the world’s 10th most expensive city
Salaries in Israel are typically low — a common figure cited is “ 25% less than the West”, although I’ve never been able to corroborate that with an actual statistic. To anyone that lives here, or comes from a Jewish community with ties to Israel, this is simply a known fact, roughly akin, in controversialality, to affirming that the sky is blue.
Another day, another Facebook group poster starting a discussion about the cost of living and salaries. I can tell you that this discussion is happening all the time — both online and in ‘real life’.
Ireland’s “average salary” stands at €37,646 at the time of writing ( source: CSO) vs. 11,004 NIS for Israel (source: Central Bureau of Statistics). As salaries are quoted monthly in Israel, this first has to be annualized to give 137,568 NIS = €34,991 at the time of writing. However, although the gap may seem small,
the Israeli figure is grossly inflated by salaries in “high tech”, which is a rather narrow definition of jobs directly involved in producing software and related products. It also has its own pay scale that differs wildly from the natural average. Those that track such statistics have computed a separate median and average for high tech,
which stands at 23,375 NIS (/month) which is obviously more than double the national average. However (and here, again, is the kicker),
only — which means, of course, that 91% of the economy does not. 8.7% of Israelis work in high-tech
OECD indices aside, we all know that there is really only one way to compare the cost of living in two countries:
looking at the cost of own-brand supermarket pizzas!
Thankfully, the prevalence of online grocery shopping — and that wonderful thing called the internet — means that I can do this without having to travel to a branch of Tesco, one of the main supermarkets in Ireland.
In Tesco, I can nourish myself / satiate the midnight munchies with a “hearty food cheese and tomato pizza” for the princely sum of just €0.47 (at today’s rate: 1.82 NIS):
The very cheapest thing I can nourish myself on in Israel, according to Shufersal Online, costs 11.90 NIS (€3.07):
That means that according to the generic supermarket pizza price index (GSPPI), and without factoring in differences in consumer purchasing power, Israel is 6.5 times more expensive than Ireland.
The example I choose may be trivial, but you really feel the difference whenever you buy groceries.
And: Extra Charges Compound the Burn
As if being unable to gorge on cheap supermarket pizzas weren’t enough punishment, there are many charges that exist in Israel which do not in other countries and which put a further dent in one’s disposable income.
Renters, rather than the owner, pay both an agent’s fee for finding a property ( even though the fee has technically been illegalized — remember the point about freiers). Renters also need to pay a monthly municipality tax, called arnona. Although the personal income taxation burden (according to my calculations) is currently less than it is in Ireland, the tax on some items, such as new cars (
83% plus VAT!) is punitively highly.
As a result of all this articles such as the Times of Israel’s
“Sure you can make it in Israel — if your parents help, say economists” do not surprise me in the slightest.
Nor do the remarks of Eitan Regev, an economist at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, which authored a series of policy papers on Israel’s widening income gap. As measured by the Geni co-efficient, Israel’s income inequality remains among the highest in the world.
According to Regev’s synopsis of the think tank’s policy paper:
“Basically the story nowadays in Israel is that wealth and assets have become more important than hard work
“Unless you and your spouse both work in professions that put you in the top fifth of income earners (e.g. high-tech engineer, doctor, money manager), or you have pre-existing assets, then it’s not only hard to make ends meet, there’s also the desperation of not being able to see yourself on a probable path of getting ahead in life and saving money.”
There are some other shocking nuggets which I have unearthed over the years.
TOI piece linked above:
“Gilad Brand looked at consumer prices in Israel and found that
relative to incomes, prices are higher here than in every OECD country except Japan.”
From a Media Line piece syndicated on Ynet,
“Israeli parents forced to support adult kids”:
“A new study by the
Taub Center for Social Policy finds that 87% of all Israeli parents help their adult children with finances.“
The article continues:
“Dan Ben David, director of the Taub Center, says that in the United States, it takes 2.9 years of salary to buy the average apartment. In Israel, it takes 7.7.
‘That’s if you don’t eat and don’t pay any taxes,’ he told The Media Line. “In Israel, we have higher taxes and lower salaries.”
Mortgage down-payments, for Israel’s extremely expensive property stock, are also typically in the region of 30–40%, including for first-time buyers — unless they are lucky enough to win a government lottery.
This, of course, compares unfavorably with Ireland’s average first-time buyer mortgage rate, which can be as low as 10%.
To add to all this:
Hotel prices in Israel are among the most expensive in the world (
5th according to the Annual Hotel Price Index report). As a result, for many Israelis it is cheaper and preferable to fly to Europe than to have a staycation. As a result, and rather entertainingly, I now hear plenty of stories from friends about their Ryanair trips to Europe. (Ryanair is a low-cost airline founded in Ireland.)
a completely shocking statistic from published recently and which (judging by the lack of reaction) apparently has not raised many eyebrows. The Calcalist
“A recent survey by Dun & Bradstreet Corp. revealed that Israelis have on average a negative checking account balance of NIS 25,000 (approximately $7,090), and 5% are paying off at least five loans concurrently.”
(This is what Israelis colloquially call “living in
meenoos“; ‘meen-ooss’ is how ‘minus’, one of many loan-words in the lexicon, is pronounced in Hebrew):
Although things will hopefully slowly get better as international competition continues to disrupt Israel’s countless monopolies and oligopolies, for the moment, Israel remains a very expensive country in which to live and work — and immigrants continue to often work two or more jobs simply to get by.
On the whole, Israeli workers, relative to Irish ones, tend to be under-remunerated and over-worked.
2: Ireland Has A Better Bar Scene (Unsurprisingly)
On the plus side, Israel has a better selection of dilapidated lotto stands blasting loud Mizrahi (Eastern pop) music which you can also drink at. Here’s my favorite: Etsel Shabi in Nahlaot, Jerusalem.
I enjoy pub culture and this is another aspect in which I think Ireland definitely outpaces Israel.
However you cut it (pour it?) alcohol in Israel, like so much else, remains extremely expensive.
Prices of 30–35 NIS (€7.63 — €8.91) for a
“chetzi” (500ml measure, the Israeli equivalent of a pint, which of course is shorter than a pint by 68ml) are routine. For comparison, if that beer were sold in Ireland, it would be the most expensive in the country!
(And don’t forget that, as the bold lettering on the receipt will certainly remind you,
“Service is Not Included.” Bar service in Israel is almost always mediated by wait staff — even just for drinks orders. Thus, one is forced into dealing with waiter or waitress service who will often have no qualms about making their displeasure evident if the tip proferred does not meet their expectations.)
I’m not grumbling about the fact that Israelis drink less alcohol (which, unsurprisingly, they certainly do:
Israel’s per-capita alcohol consumption stands at 2.3L/ethanol/person/year versus Ireland’s 11.9L, a more than five-fold difference.
Rather, besides the prices, my complaint is that pub culture seems to be limited almost entirely to city centers.
Suburbs, even inner ones, are virtually bereft of watering holes — which I find both bizarre and depressing as I’ve recently moved to one.
The attitude of a recent taxi driver who I will paraphrase here, might explain a lot. He asked me why I was taking a taxi to a bar on the weekend so I asked him if he also enjoys pubs. To which he responded:
“Drink? No, I don’t drink, you fool! I go to the spa every day to relax. It’s healthier, didn’t you know? There are no bars in the suburbs? Yes, you’re right about that, young man. That’s because drinking here is mostly for teenagers. Once people get married, they don’t go to bars anymore. How old are you? Get out of my taxi!”
(Artistic license was used in trying to reconstruct this quote from memory).
To add to this:
From a personal finance perspective, there aren’t many advantages to living in Israel. Israeli banks are notorious for charging high fees — and credit card companies offer extremely modest benefits relative to other international franchisees. The New Israeli Shekel (NIS) is of course a minor world currency — and for Israelis purchasing online this can lead to them constantly buying at unfavorable exchange rates.
Israeli consumer protection law — like tenant protection law — is underdeveloped and its consumer protection body, The Israel Consumer Council, is a toothless beast. Israel being neither in the European Economic Area (EEA), the European Union (EU), nor the United States,
there are a lot of great FinTech products that Israelis also don’t have access to. I listed a few in my blog.
3: Manners, Politeness, Granting Of Social Space
This stock image was not taken in Israel, I can assure you. Source: Wikipedia.
Things in this respect are getting a lot better quickly, in my opinion, but add this to the list of stereotypes that (often) have quite a ring of truth to them.
Again, this could be a Jerusalem vs. Tel Aviv thing (the denizens of Tel Aviv, being a more international city, are more
“evolved” as a former Israeli co-worker used to put it).
I don’t want to dwell on this too much, but
this quite entertaining article captures the dynamic rather well!
4: (Much) Better Customer Service
Don’t be deceived by the large amount of familiar international names operating in Israel. They are typically operating in Israel through local franchisees. As someone else put it, these companies are the same thing as their parent brand “in name only
The other obvious deficiency of life in Israel
is the often appalling rude, demeaning “customer service” one eventually comes to regard as normal.
Consider the fact that, as mentioned, said goods are often unconscionably expensive (and of inferior quality; from my observations, Israel seems to get many of its imports from the same distribution chains that serve India and Turkey, which makes sense geographically).
This slowly gnaws at you but becomes particularly infuriating after a while once you own an apartment-full of low-quality overpriced locally sourced appliances that have all broken down and none of which can be repaired as their customer service lines will either hang up the phone on you in protest or simply give you an earful for even having the temerity to ask them to do something about their goods.
This week, for instance (while I was trying to destroy some paper trails) my Fellowes paper shredder jammed on some paper — at a number of sheets within its supposed limit.
Although it was slightly more than a year after purchase, this was only the second time I had used the machine and I was hopeful for a warranty repair (particularly as this was the second time this had happened and the receipt indicated that a “limited warranty” applied between the first and second years after purchase).
I decided to contact Fellowes directly, who promptly passed the case back to
“Getter Group”, their Israeli representative.
In the typically rude and demeaning style that typifies a lot of Israeli customer service — and without once apologizing — the agent told me off for having the temerity to even ask for a repair before promptly hanging up the phone on me.
Perhaps I’m having reverse the-grass-is-greener syndrome but this is not an experience I can imagine having in Ireland!
5: Better Professional Opportunities (Unless You’re A Software Developer Or Falafel Restaurant Owner…)
Tel Aviv is a world epicenter for startups, but many are early-stage and use the local market as a sort of real-world incubator before planning State-wards expansions or moves into Europe, often leaving only a residual presence in Israel (Ireland can be similar in this regard). International companies’ R&D centers, and domestic giants such as Teva, tend to be based in slightly less glamorous locations, such as Hertzlia and Beer Sheva, but have much more staying power.
When it comes to Israel and jobs, most assume that working in the ‘Startup Nation’ would be a dream come true for a young professional.
Without wishing to sound overly pessimistic, I have mixed feelings about this, which I am jotting down only because I know countless other young immigrant professionals — from doctors and lawyers to fitness instructors and even artisan bakers— that feel the same way.
third most educated country in the world, Israel places very high value on certain specific and hard skill-sets, such as Java programming and even operating cranes in a port . (Click the link to the left for some very anomalous and intriguing fields that break the general low-pay paradigm for this very reason, in my opinion. It includes the employees of the national electricity company and crane operators at ports, organizations which perpetuate the country’s many monopolies by enforcing Israel’s many protectionist customs restrictions).
In the army (remember, Israel remains a country of conscripts), everybody has a specific
tafkeed (role). The job market, as I perceive it, provides a pretty accurate civilian reflection of that.
Not that that isn’t true everywhere, but I think that those looking at working here should understand that Israeli employers have comparatively little interest in academic credentials and are much more focused on what
skills you have and what you can offer their team.
I love communications and writing — neither of which quite fit into the narrow box of being hard and decisively important skills and both of which, unfortunately, cannot be easily quantified for cash-tied startups keeping a hawkishly close eye over ROI. By comparison, although I have no taste for it, digital marketing and SEO salaries remain disproportionately inflated.
And in a non-English-speaking country (again, my opinion), employers and companies tend to perceive the provision of “content” as akin to nothing more than a glorified translation service from Hebrew ideas into English copy. (My thoughts on why calling all writing ‘content’ degrades and devalues professional communications can constitute another post).
In other words, the vast majority of marketing, communications and content roles I have seen tend to be very entry-level and junior — written by those who primarily need nothing better than a “native English speaker” to string some brochures together in the hope that they will catch the eye of an American investor and the whole operation can move Stateside.
In other words, it’s not a framework in which I can see myself excelling and growing.
Although not chief among them, this is one of the reasons why I am currently self-employed — helping companies in Israel, and abroad, who need something a little more sophisticated than ‘native-level English content’, but doing so as an independent contractor rather than any one company’s employee.
Working as a contractor with a
mixture of international and Israeli clients, on the other hand, can be be quite rewarding and offers exposure to a lot of different industries at once — experiencing both the out-of-the-box thinking which Israelis startups are justifiably world famous for and a culture of steady professionalism which is often, I think, superior at international companies. A Different Professional Environment
Professionally, prospective immigrants should realize, the Israeli work environment is also very different to that which exists in Ireland and much of Europe.
This has both positive and negative aspects.
The informality of the Israeli workplace makes it a very flat and Agile-friendly environment in which to launch and build early-stage tech startups.
But on the flipside,
a culture of professionalism is often sorely lacking (Western immigrants often forcefully position themselves as torchbearers for the cause of improving this — often to the chagrin of their Israeli co-workers who have heard it all before from a previous hire who then …. left and moved back to the US).
This has been both my experience and that of some international contacts I once knew who were seconded — from a multinational engineering firm — to work on a major infrastructural project here.
They said that they favored the work environment of their home country for its culture of professionalism and were somewhat aghast at the remuneration of their Israeli colleagues doing comparable jobs.
(Those thinking of working as foreign workers in construction rather than within the project management layer should be aware that safety standards at Israeli construction sites have
frequently been called into question. And c onsidering what emerged from whistleblowers about the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high speed train I have no reason to doubt their veracity.)
Besides salary, working conditions in Israel tend to compare unfavorably with those in Ireland.
Default office hours in Israel are long (45 hours per week vs. Ireland’s 39).
More grievously, from my perspective, the county has a miserly legal minimum vacation day standard of just 12 days per year (aping the US — but without the salaries to match!) . Ireland’s, by comparison, is 28, not counting the number of public holidays and Bank Holidays (three day weekends!) interspersed throughout the calendar year.
Did you know that the EU has a minimum holiday allowance for member states of 4 weeks? I’ve long argued that Israel needs to offer much more paid vacation to its employees — but even a measure to add three Bank Holiday style weekends to the working calendar couldn’t make it through the Knesset
without being torpedoed by unions.
Finally, the vast majority of public holidays in Israel are in fact “holy days” (Hebrew: Yom Tov). These are, in effect, religious celebrations — so shops and public transport generally do not run and those obeying religious law refrain from even using electricity. Even Chanukah, in Israel, is not actually a public holiday.
You get the picture — Israel needs more time off!
As a result of all the above, although I neither downplay the success of Israel’s high-tech sector nor deny the fact that many succeed in making very high salaries in it, as a professional writer working in English I tend to think that, if I were interested in resuming employment in companies rather than for myself, my career opportunities could only improve by moving somewhere where English is the vernacular.
A friend likes to say that (economically) Israel has taken the worst aspects of socialism and the worst aspects of capitalism and put them together!
I’ll conclude this point with a piece of advice I’ve heard countless times by those far more experienced and knowledgeable than I in the art of making a good livelihood while living in Israel:
If you don’t work in high tech or want to work for yourself, the best way to work in Israel is to work for a foreign company! 6: Ireland Has Better Standards of Rental Apartments
Given that I can’t envision owning property here in the near future, this is one that hits close to home (excuse the pun).
Israeli rental apartments — at least those that are not furnished — tend to come with nothing more than an air conditioner on the wall (if that).
The current apartment I live in, although of a relatively decent standard in an upscale Jerusalem neighborhood (and which, therefore, commands a respectable rent) does not
have a fitting for a dishwasher because no one envisioned it would be needed.
Clothes dryers are considered luxuries and the overall standard of both construction and repair work is atrocious and coupled with a unique
“the customer is wrong and needs to be argued with to prove that to him/her” attitude.
There is actually a reason for all this that I only recently discovered.
As the Taub Center researchers pointed out, capital assets are now more valuable than labor in Israel.
Before the tech explosion shook things up, property in Israel used to be cheap, and many native-born Israelis comes from families that own multiple properties throughout the country — a few of which can be rented as investment properties to
freiers like I and my cohort of modern-day olim to develop a nice source of passive income.
In short: Israel does not have a strong traditional culture of renting and those that own rentals tend to see them as . “turn-a-quick-buck” assets
Like all landlords, Israelis do not invest in them as they might in their own homes, which I discovered as soon as I began being entertained in
real Israeli homes and standing aghast as I watched homeowners loading dishes into dishwashers — those cool machines they had back in Ireland that automatically do the dishes.
Quite amusingly, plugs routinely simply pull out of walls in Israel because — for many years — loose vacuum fittings were the preferred means of wall mounting them.
I gather that this happens whatever the relation to your dwelling might be.
The spartan standard of rental apartments here is excellently and amusingly appreciated by visiting a very funny Facebook page called (in English) “
Apartments in Israel That Depress Me” which documents both the apartments themselves and the equally ridiculous behavior of slumlords, which I am well-acquainted with.
7. Better Drivers
Driving in Israel is so stressful that I honestly sometimes miss the days when I didn’t have a car here. Etiquette and manners on the road are not much of a ‘thing’ in Israel: whoever pushes gets ahead.
If you can get by without a car, or have high blood pressure, I recommend trying to get by with public transport for as long as you can.
Miscellaneous Other Things That I Think Ireland Does Better
Less second hand smoke: Ireland was actually a world leader when it comes to banning secondhand smoke.
It was the first country in the world to completely ban smoking in indoor workplaces — a category which, crucially, included restaurants and bars.
Besides there being a lot more smokers in Israel, the ban on secondhand smoking is routinely openly flouted (see above remark in the
freier section about strict observance of laws being a typical freier move). And A Couple More Good Things About Israel
As I cut this section of the blog short in order to not run into Shabbat and jumped straight to writing the conclusion, let me add in a few things that I missed and which I will develop upon at a later time. In my opinion:
Israel has better fruit!
Israel has tastier food
This has been my rough comparison between Israel and Ireland.
My chief complaint about Israel — and the only one which I think is worth dwelling on — remains the unreasonably high cost of living.
If you want to know what most young Jewish immigrants struggle with most in the country — there it is.
On the other hand, there are many aspects of living in Israel that I greatly enjoy and wish I would miss were I to leave.
If, in the course of engaging in some grumbling and satire I gave the impression that I hate living here in spite of my Zionism I have failed in offering a fair evaluation.
But when it comes to those genuine downsides which I have tried to elucidate let me say this.
I know that countless immigrants share the exact same grievances and think that the culture of silence that often surrounds this whole issue (perpetuated by a vocal but sizable minority of
immigrants who seem to view pointing out any flaws about Israel as tantamount to national treason) is detrimental to achieving necessary change.
I think that Israel needs to continue to adapt to make it a viable and affordable home for future generations of Jews to not just subsist but to thrive in — including those that don’t have the luxury of generous parental subsidies and who don’t work in high-tech.
If it doesn’t, I think that socioeconomic factors post almost as large a threat to the future of Zionism as external forces do.
To put this post as succinctly as possible, living as an immigrant in Israel can be
very challenging — particularly during the first years — and many come unprepared for the struggle.
Compared to the Irish emigrant communities I knew while living, briefly, in London and New York, the few Irish ex-pats I have met here (most not Jewish) tend to be a lot less gung-ho about it than those who call more conventional emigrant destinations — like London, New York, or even Australia — their adopted home.
The most entertaining piece of advice for transversing those rough patches, however, was unsurprisingly given to me by an Irish guy living in the south of the country.
He said something like this:
“It can be tough at times alright. When it’s tough, I drink a bit more. When it’s grand, I drink a bit less”
Although I cannot endorse using alcohol as a coping mechanism, like many emigrants, I still feel very connected to Ireland and greatly and chiefly miss being close to family, friends and
— that unique breed of fun and humor encapsulated in that attitude that I have scarcely encountered here, at least as the Irish do it. craic
At times, it can also be a lonely experience to live in one of the few countries in the world that has a vanishingly small Irish community (the few that are here tend to live around Tel Aviv and have wound up in Israel for romantic reasons following Israeli partners that they met while travelling or in Ireland. By and large, they are not here for idealistic reasons like me and most non-Irish immigrants.)
Although on the plus side that forces me to tolerate the company of Americans and excludes the possibility of ever being drawn into an Irish bubble. One simply doesn’t exist to be drawn into.
What change would I like to see taking place in Israel?
A reduction in the cost of living first and foremost.
Cheaper supermarket pizza to binge on at midnight.
Customer service and better manners — in those places where they are oftenstill lacking — would be nice too.
A few more days off wouldn’t go amiss too.
As well as the countless other things I have glossed over or omitted entirely (over-regulation of small business, and the often stifling bureaucracy in general, is a big gripe).
On the flip side, I enjoy a vibrant Jewish life here.
I’m among the very first generations of Jews in more than two millennia to live a free Jewish life in a Jewish country and in the place where the Jewish people’s story all began.
That same calendar of national holidays — with its days off that often don’t really feel like days off — reflects the calendar that I run my religious life according to and not those of another culture.
And finally (it still feel fresh)— I’m the norm.
I also get to live in a functional democracy with great healthcare, enjoy an (all things considered) high quality of life, and can enjoy a bottle of wine on my roof in sunshine for most of the year.
At least to this immigrant, that’s worth an awful lot.