Whether it is this government, the last government, every government since democracy began or the EU that is to blame, there is no doubt that we have a serious immigration problem in this country, and a short walk around Hendon will leave you in no doubt as to the impact all these Israelis are having on our society. Honestly, sometimes it’s like living in Tel Aviv, what with all the falafel bars, smoking in the street and double parking.
I wouldn’t mind so much but let’s face it, they make no effort to integrate. It’s hardly surprising that they breed suspicion among indigenous Jews.
As regular readers know, I pride myself on my even-handed, non-judgmental, tolerant and trusting disposition, so I figured that if they won’t bother to learn the language of the country that has so generously given them refuge, then I would learn their language and that way we’ll know what they’re saying about us as they smoke their cigarettes in the street.
Now I must admit that I am lousy at languages. I know this because most people give me a confused look when I talk to them. Only last week I was asking a young fellow in Halfords for advice on something to clean my schmutzik car seats because they were getting a bit farshtunken with all the schmaltz herring I’d been schlepping around and he looked at me as if I was speaking in a foreign tongue.
However, being lousy at languages is no barrier to learning to communicate with Israelis because Ivrit has only one linguistic rule: whatever one person says, the other replies with the contrary position. The nuances of the language are in how vociferously the contradiction is delivered.
At the most basic level is a single tut uttered without making eye contact. This means: “You are such an idiot I’m not even going to waste time educating you”.
Next comes the tut with a quiet correction, but still no eye contact. The contemptuous disdain remains, although this time your interlocutor is at least acknowledging your existence as a fellow human being.
Then there’s fly-off-the-handle fury. Someone unused to communicating with Israelis may perceive a degree of over-reaction. For example, the likely response to: “Israeli’s can be rather argumentative from time to time” will probably be: “Argumentative?! You think we are argumentative? What are you talking about, argumentative? We’re not argumentative! We don’t argue at all!”
To which you might be stunned into replying: “I suppose there must be people from other places who are more argumentative than Israelis”. However, to do this would be a further mistake because the Israeli will certainly come back with: “Are you kidding me? What do you mean there must be people from other places more argumentative than Israelis? Nobody is more argumentative than an Israeli!”
This compulsive need to be contrary runs through the whole of Israeli culture and society. The language itself can be beautiful, expressive and emotional on the one hand, and course, ugly and violent on the other.
It is therefore no surprise that the outcome of the recent general election was a 50:50 split between left and right. As a nation Israel is perfectly oppositional. For everyone holding one view, there is another to argue against that view. It has nothing to do with the actual beliefs of the individual and everything to do with their need to contradict.
Why do you think that Yesh Atid surprised everyone by securing seven more seats that predicted? What happened is that all those people had gone to the polling station intending to vote for Likud, but when they arrived they got talking to another Likud supporter, couldn’t help but argue with that person, and ended up voting for Yair Lapid’s lot.
Now I know this sounds far-fetched because I couldn’t believe it myself, but I assure you it’s absolutely true. I know it’s true because I told a man smoking a cigarette in the street in Hendon that it couldn’t possibly be true and without so much as a look he simply tutted at me.