White Night

July 6, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Adam Baratz, Voices from Israel | Leave a comment
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This Friday, I attended Tel Aviv’s White Night Festival. In 2003, UNESCO declared Tel Aviv a World Heritage Center and dubbed it as “The White City.” Since then, the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality has held an annual citywide party, offering a slew of special events for the benefit of the residents and visitors of the city.

As a firsthand witness, I can confidently say that this is an extraordinary event. Its uniqueness helps to providing some interesting clues about the Israeli culture. For starters, the event, which began at 8pm, continued until sunrise. I only got back home at 9:30am. For those familiar with Israeli culture, this might not sound too surprising. Israelis tend to be nocturnal, especially on the weekends. As a youth, I can vividly recall consistently staying up for the entire night with my friends.  Back then, when we finally surrendered to our exhaustion, we would wake up in the late afternoon. There is something humbling and exhilarating about watching the night from the sunset until the sunrise. Continue Reading White Night…

Voices from Israel: A Different Culture by Adam Baratz

June 22, 2010 at 10:48 am | Posted in Adam Baratz, Voices from Israel | Leave a comment

Israeli’s have a unique culture.

In the States, I frequently hear criticisms of Israeli culture. Often times, visitors will balk at the aggressive nature of the Israeli people. This aggressiveness materializes in a variety of ways. Israelis are pushy. The very idea of a well ordered line is a distant dream in Israel. When I first returned to the country, I was patiently waiting in line to get through passport control. I had been waiting for 15 minutes, when all of the sudden, out of nowhere, an obnoxious women with 4 children scooted past me. After confronting her, it became clear that she was not in a rush. The action was therefore entirely superfluous. This woman explained that I should have been more aware. In her mind, I was in the wrong for being passive. Her twisted reality evoked a combination of extreme anger and frustration.

Israelis do not sugar-coat their thoughts. If they disagree with you, they will tell you. If they don’t like you, they will probably tell you. For example, my grandfather, Gideon Baratz, was very politically driven. Visitors who referenced “controversial” politics were immediately booted out of his home. However, as the saying goes, there are two sides to the same coin. While I do be live that Israelis are uncouth, I also believe that Israelis are also very honest, a trait that I highly value. Knowing what people actually think makes life much simpler. Instead of having to decipher a complex arrangement of references, hints, and body language, in Israel, one can find things out by simply asking.

What is more, Israelis are wonderfully approachable. Last week I was building a pool for a botanical garden in a high school. All of the sudden, a young chap who attended the high school approached me and asked me what I was doing. I started a conversation with the fellow student. In short time, 4 other high school seniors had joined in on the discussion. Five minutes later, all of the 5 students were helping in the construction of the pond: 3 were preparing cement, the other two were slapping the cement on the floor of the pool. I had not even asked them to help out. They approached me and volunteered on their own initiative. This interaction is very revealing. In the States, I know that I would never approach a construction site and volunteer to help out. There is an openness and a kindness in Israel.

The point is this: while there are many elements to Israeli culture which might be somewhat distasteful, there are other wonderful parts of the culture that are unique to Israel. As a person  who grew  up in Israel, I accept the good and the bad. These quirks are what make Israel home.

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