September 28, 2007

What will become of this blog?

Where did it come from?

My first blog was called "Joseph in Cambodia", and basically that was the story: Joseph's trip there. Even though I was working, I was basically a tourist visiting a foreign country.

The present blog which you're reading received the name "What's Next" when I knew that my next destination would be Israel but I didn't want to disclose it yet (as my parents didn't know my plans).

But it turns out that there is an other good reason for not having a kind of "Joseph in Israel" title. Here, there is much more to the story than a trip. I'm not a tourist here, it turns out I have really moved here, however smoothly I went from the status of "Tourist" to that of "Working Tourist" and from there to "Temporary Resident".

In a way, this explains why there's less to tell in this blog than I expected: I'm not reacting to things on a per-event basis and the important evolutions and choices are so personal that I hesitate to write about them on this public space.

How will I manage to write about them in the form of a public blog? Let me try my hand at this exercise of writing such a personal story while keeping some privacy.

Learning how to become an Israeli

The Zionist ideology required in the past from immigrants to all but forget their original culture (including their mother tongue! - see Nurit Aviv's Misafa Lesafa). Since I knew that this had been relegated as a thing of the past, I thought that one could immigrate today without having to force onto oneself any change of culture. That was a mistake. Although on more subtle level, I still need to learn how to become an Israeli. To be impolite and aggressive is an important part of it: if I am too polite or too gentle, I will not be considered a real Israeli. I was explained that politeness is not just an free bonus of life in society and that it actually places a distance between people which doesn't exist in the Israeli society. For the better of for the worse, I can't keep French politeness and be an Israeli. If I'm too gentle, I won't get consideration either, aggressiveness is an essential part of life here.

From the religious point of view there are also important things which took me months to understand. I'll write about this soon (בלי נדר, bli neder of course!).

From an ideological point of view, it is very subtle. I realize how the point of view of the mainstream Israeli society gets inside me slowly. It's in everything: the news and media obviously, the way people refer to the "rest of the world" (in Hebrew, one syllable: חו"ל, chul), where and how people travel : if you live here, you're immersed into an ideology and slowly forget how most of the rest of the world, this famous chul, thinks about Israel. I realize that I get influenced against my will. Is my mind more easily influenced than an other's? Lacking definite opinions? I just can't help my primary source of information be the that the broadcasts of the Israeli radios (Kol Israel and Galei Tsahal).

Temporary conclusion

Two things are happening at the same time.

First, the one which obsesses me. I chose to face the challenge of being happy in a sedentary life: a desk-bound job, an apartment and living in a place where I have good reason to be involved in political and social issues. My life here is much less of a "carpe diem" than in Cambodia and I can't explain exactly why.

The second thing, is that "integration" is something much broader than I expected. It is about finding a compromise between adopting a society's ideology, way of life, codes and one's own values, habits and freedom.

My intuition is that the explanation to the first problem is in the second: belonging somewhere is the hardest challenge I could face, because I was raised to be always independent of the society I lived in. It is a radical change for me. I consciously chose to face it when I left Cambodia, but it's not easy.

I treat my anxiety with regard to both problems by setting milestones on my way to integration, as well as having other projects like learning Arabic, writing this blog or photography.

Underneath this idea to integrate is a wish for my children, if I have some one day, to grow up in a society to which they belong.

1 comment:

ann said...

you meant to say the french are polite?