To many this might, at first glance, appear like a simple question, a question with which a short answer could be justified with not more than a response pulled together by poorly-knit ideas. Yet quite on the contrary, being Israeli has quite a bit more to it than the eye can see. Living in Israel, you would think, would be the very first place where one could appreciate and realize his own ‘Israeli-ness’, surrounded by others like him. Some would even think that he is reminded many times too often. However, this familiarity and sense of local belonging are actually the factors that hinder him from understanding it.
Living in Israel, we have the tendency to pick out the differences between ourselves, embracing them nonetheless, yet always proudly making sure we establish them. Hearing people retain their grandparents, or great-grandparents heritage as part of their identity makes you wonder how were all so different with many introducing themselves as Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Ethiopian, or Soviet- descent Jews, and some making it crucial for people to know that the ancestors from originally Druze or of Bedouin origin. Also, today, more than ever, it seems like there could not exist more alienation and ‘the foreigner syndrome’ towards people who hold different political beliefs than you. Suddenly, I don’t associate myself with him because he has right wing beliefs and I’m an adamant left-wing supporter… This appears to be the case I see wondering the streets of my home country. Being in Israel, one logically thinks that it would bring us together, yet what we come to witness is only perpetuating estrangement.
Spending a significant portion of my life living beyond the borders of my home, I had learnt to love my country. Since a young age I remember being exposed to a sense of connection to the youth around me, in my small naïve world, it never occurred to me that his or her parents had immigrated from here, or descended from “this” or “that”. All I recalled is that we were all Israelis. I knew nothing else living abroad, where our nationality automatically meant sharing a deep bond with the small number of Israelis at hand. For in another country we were all Israelis; background, religion, political beliefs went straight out the window. Although, in all reality, we were all unique and different, with the differences between us only growing over time, we all stood ultimately on common ground that trumped all of the differences; we are all Israelis.
Being Israeli is not just a privilege, it’s a commitment, a commitment to something bigger than all of us individually. It is the responsibility of being aware that at the end of the day we are so, extremely different but all equally and similarly Israeli which unquestionably supersedes all other difference. Strolling the vibrant walkways of Tel Aviv, a tourist might be led to believe these people have no connection to each other with different color skin, believing in different religions and looking nothing alike… yet he could not be more mistaken.
Written By Tom Sagiv
Edited by Carlos Sevilla