Writing truthfully about my immigrant experience can lead down many unflattering avenues.
A couple of days ago, as I was reviewing a critical, but humorous blog about some experiences with an unruly Israeli crowd, I was struck by pangs of fear, concern and protectiveness.
“Should I publish this?” I asked myself. After all, it doesn’t portray “my people” in a favorable light. There’s so much negative propaganda about Israel in the world, so do I want my admittedly little blog adding to the plethora of bad press?
And, what about not airing your dirty laundry in public?
And what would my father say …?
And what would my father say? Is he rolling in his grave, shaking his head in frustration, wondering how come he, and the poetry of Uri Zvi Greenberg, and the Beitar songs didn’t do the trick? How could it be that his daughter – living abroad, away from his beloved country, for which he fought and was imprisoned for … how could it be she’s saying there are negative things about his team?
And then I thought about my dad – not my father the Zionist; not my father the Irgun fighter; and not even my father who was a pallbearer at Jabotinsky‘s funeral, but my dad who was there every day – and I knew he would say, “go ahead BAT SHELLI (my daughter), say what’s in your heart”
So after being released from the guilt by way of my father, now I had to face my guilt.
How can I, who love Israel so much, criticize her? How can I make fun of her ill-mannered people? Point out her faults? (And, why are countries always female?)
And I also realized that I’m much more protective of my birth place than of the US. I view the US as big and strong and able to protect itself, while Israel is this punching bag for everything that’s wrong in the world.
And I had to believe that in this upcoming “immigrant series”, while comparing and contrasting two cultures, the reader will eventually be touched by the people of Israel – warts and all.
We are allowed to criticize our parents; but strangers are not. Since I have left my “parents=homeland”, for all intents and purposes I shouldn’t criticize and poke fun – and yet I may do it from time to time. Does it diminish the love? Not at all. You see, when you really love, you can get exasperated by the flaws, but you know that overall, this is the object of your love with all its imperfections.
I was very fortunate to have experienced two amazing countries in my lifetime. One tiny and one vast. One that was fighting for its survival, and one that had peace on its shores. However, both had one major similarity; both were inhabited by immigrants and both started with a multitudes of cultures, languages, customs, and social conventions.
And this is where the richness is, and the humor. We make fun of ourselves, the other, the foreign and the scary. Looking at customs that are different creates anxiety, and it’s so much easier to poke fun at and to criticize. Justifying why you left your country produces guilt as well, and hence the criticism of its people, politics and management.
Admittedly, it’s all just a big defense mechanism.
And so I need to declare, that even though some of my opinions can be scathing, I consider Israel a miracle, and being born and raised there a privilege – as well as the most defining experience ever. I am also filled with gratitude to the US, my adoptive and benevolent present country, for opening its arms to me.
With all that said, I simply have to accept that writing honestly through the eyes of an immigrant will portray the good, the bad and the ugly of both countries.