Airing Dirty Laundry – An Immigrant’s Perspective

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.


About rachel bar

Psychotherapist and supervisor.
This entry was posted in Foreign, Immigration, israel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Airing Dirty Laundry – An Immigrant’s Perspective

  1. ermigal says:

    Rachel, I’m anxious to read more about Israel–Iearning about other cultures is so enriching.Since retiring, I miss working with my ESL students and families so much because I had the privilege of getting to know people from all around the world. Will you be writing more on this topic in the future? I enjoyed the description of your father a lot.

    • rachel bar says:

      Yes, I will. In my next blog I will write about some manners (or the lack of…) of some Israelis. I’m going to write about food, about types of immigrants and who knows what else. It’s an evolving process. I’m glad you’re interested!

  2. Maurice Labi says:

    You’re a “child” of your country Israel, and like a child who cannot say something bad about her parents regardless of how she was treated, the same may be true about having difficulty saying something bad about one’s country. As for “why are countries always female?” — in Germany, it’s not – they refer to it as the Fatherland. Could that help explain its past aggression?

  3. ShimonZ says:

    I am sure it’ll be very interesting, reading what you have to say about Israel… what you have to say about your adopted country too. Each person has a different perspective… Though I have found, that as I grow older, I have less regard for the reports and interpretations of most of those who write about civil events that I have some knowledge of. I used to read the newspaper every morning. And I remember enjoying reading the news… and then, somewhere along the time line… I stopped the subscription for every day, and subscribed only to the Saturday paper. I am still subscribed, but nowadays, I usually just read one or two articles. In many cases, when I start to read an article, I know exactly where it’s going…

  4. Debbie says:

    I really liked what you wrote. I think your father would be kvelling, not rolling, in his grave; for many reasons. Gai gehzundt!

  5. Vasca says:

    Your father must be a wise man…he’s on the right track. Something I practiced living overseas was to be very gracious and never criticize the host country. They were always gracious to me, as well. I think it’s quite ‘tacky’ to criticize other countries. Each country has faults; we just don’t need to point them out so arrogantly. I know the U.S. had tons of faults…but…it’s my homeland that I truly love…blemishes and all. (I also practice graciousness here…talking about different cities and states…no one like being ‘put down’)

    Thanks for being so open/transparent…that’s a healthy condition.

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