Israel's 10 Plagues

Passover special: Yair Lapid writes about the 10 greatest problems faced by Israelis today.

Published: April 19th 2011
in News » Israel

Yair Lapid
Pic: Yoni Hamenachem

1. Jealousy


“There’s one significant difference between America’s business culture and Israel’s business culture,” I told a group of American businesspeople I was asked to address. “Around here, we don’t have what you call a win-win situation.”


The Americans stared at me with confusion, yet the Israelis in the room started to nod, as smiles spread across their faces.


The win-win situation is the basis for America’s entire business world. Instead of wasting our time attempting to defeat each other, let’s find a way that will make both of us gain and go home satisfied. In Israel it doesn’t work, because the only meaning of victory is seeing your rival’s body lying trampled on the floor. We may have learned this in the army, or maybe it’s part of the Jewish character, but victory isn’t worth much for us unless we had a chance to truly pulverize someone.


This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a small society like Israel’s, competitiveness is necessary. The problem is that with the passage of them it produces another phenomenon, which is much more worrisome: We hate winners.


When the Americans see someone like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, who made billions thanks to their talent and determination, the first thing they say to themselves is “I want to be like him.” This, in many ways, is the engine that drives Western society: The desire to make it like the winners. Why? Because the basic premise is that they made it big because they’re talented.


On the other hand, when Israelis see someone successful, the first thing that crosses their mind is “I hope he loses it all.” I wish to see this schmuck falling on his face. I hope his business gets closed down, his too-pretty wife leaves him, the police probe him and he ends up in jail. Why? Our basic assumption is that they succeeded because they stole something from us when we weren’t paying attention.


Succeeding in life is a difficult business – you need to work 16 hours a day, face failures along the way, remember that nobody owes you a thing, and take risks. It’s much easier to sit home and say “it’s impossible to succeed in Israel without favoritism.”


2. Superficiality


Every time someone laments the death of Israel’s leftist camp, I tell them to read rightist blogs and websites. Why? Because rightist publications are the last place where the Left still rules the country. When you read them, you discover that leftists control the army, the courts, the government (that is, the Lieberman-Bibi government!), the media, and US Jewry. If it wasn’t so dangerous and crazy, it would be funny.


On the other hand, don’t the leftists do the exact same thing? After all, any religious Jew in this country has at least three stories about the time he was treated like a combination of Yigal Amir and Rabbi Levinger just because he goes to synagogue on Shabbat.


We expect intelligent people to be able to distinguish between “they” and “him.” Not all Jews are thieves, only Bernie Madoff is, not all Israelis are suicide terrorists, only Baruch Goldstein was, not all army veterans are disgusting thugs, but rather, only those who trashed their Cyprus hotel room.


People like to invent enemies. It spares us the need to address complex worldviews. Anyone who thinks differently becomes a murky, malicious element threatening our lives. Every such element has a name. “The seculars,” for example, are people who have sex with virgins at night club bathrooms, do drugs, and lack any values. “The haredim” are a bunch of parasites who produce children all the time, don’t join the army, and have no interest in working. “The religious” are delusional settlers who only care about the occupation, “the leftists” are all bleeding hearts,” and “the rightists” are not too bright.


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