thou shalt not be a freier!

supermisdreavus pointed me to this article yesterday: It’s a Sin to Be a Sucker in Israel. what an amusing read! =P if this is NOT an example of clannish behavior in israeli jews (i would bet mostly from mizrahi, sephardic, and eastern european ashkenazi jews), then i will eat somebody’s kippah!:

“It’s a Sin to Be a Sucker in Israel”
“Fear of being seen as a freier creates an unbending approach to life — from parking to peace talks. Israelis say the desire to be tough is rooted in history of survival.
July 25, 1997 | MARJORIE MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

“JERUSALEM — Why does an Israeli driver speed up when another car signals its intent to enter his traffic lane? Because he doesn’t want to be a freier — a sucker.

“What do Israelis say when dodging military reserve duty? ‘What do I look like, a freier?’

“And how does the Club Riviera advertise its five-star apartments? ‘Only Freiers Pay More!’

“If Israelis could agree on anything — a highly unlikely prospect, but if they could — it just might be that the cardinal sin is to be a freier.

“‘It’s a national characteristic,’ said author Zeev Chafets, who included a chapter on the subject in his book about Israelis, ‘Heroes and Hustlers, Hard Hats and Holy Men.’ The topic ‘is something we talk about all the time.’

“A freier, in Israeli eyes, is a shopper who waits in line to pay retail. It is a driver who searches for legal parking rather than pulling onto the sidewalk with the other cars. And if he does this in a rush to file a tax return, he is the consummate freier.

“In short, a freier is anyone who cedes ground, plays completely by the rules or allows someone to get the better of him. The ideal Israeli is clever and tough, and a freier is the opposite. A pushover — in the way that Israelis often perceive Americans to be….

“The fear of being a sucker makes Israel a more rough-and-tumble place than its modern malls and high-tech industries might suggest. It turns driving into a bumper-car competition and makes grocery shopping as trying as arm wrestling.

“Disregard for rules — of common courtesy or the road — makes life unpredictable….

“In Maariv’s weekly column, ‘Who Is an Israeli?’ readers define themselves as the anti-freier:

“* ‘An Israeli is someone who lets you back out of a parking spot only if he needs it himself.’

“* ‘An Israeli is someone who pretends to be asleep when an old man gets on the bus.’

“* ‘An Israeli is pro-peace–as long as it is not made with enemies.””

i betcha bibi never lets another driver back out of a parking spot just to be courteous. (~_^)

‘In London, the culture is to give way, be a gentleman, don’t compete,’ said Peri, the former editor. ‘But an Israeli is the opposite. If you are stronger, why should you give way to someone weaker? In a debate, the British will say, “You have a point.” In a debate here, no Israeli will admit he has been persuaded to change his mind. That shows weakness,’ he said.

“Americans as the Biggest Freiers of All

“Americans often find the Israeli attitude intolerably rude. Israelis, meanwhile, find Americans to be the biggest freiers of all. They are naive idealists. Whether tourists or Jewish immigrants, they are seen as easy marks.

“Author Shahar, a dual citizen of Israel and the United States, said Americans are perceived as innocents who follow the rules and who believe a person will actually do what he promises to do. ‘An American is willing to trust until someone proves to be untrustworthy,’ Shahar said. ‘Israel is much more like the rest of the world, where the basic assumption is that people . . . should not be trusted until proven trustworthy.’

“Israelis, she said, view rules as something to be challenged. If a sign says ‘no entrance,’ Israelis will try the door anyway. If a doctor’s assistant says no appointments are available today, an Israeli will keep pushing in the belief that exceptions will be made. Only a freier takes no for an answer.

“Israelis see this rule-bending as an advantage, particularly in times of war, when flexibility and improvisation can be a key to victory.

“Americans see used-car dealers as villains and sympathize with the consumer who has been had. But buy a lemon in Israel, and you are at fault. ‘You were naive and stupid enough to buy the car,’ Shahar said. ‘You were the freier.'”

i used to sometimes go shopping at an israeli supermarket nearby where i used to live. i’ll always remember the first time i ever shopped at this store — i was brought there by a persian friend of mine (who liked going there ’cause she could get all her middle eastern foodstuffs), and her advice to me was to get behind my shopping cart (my “carriage” for those of you up in new england!) and to NOT STOP for anybody! and she was absolutely right! these little old jewish — and other middle eastern — ladies, they were seventy and eighty years old, and they were RUTHLESS! absolutely deadly. =P i always got a kick out of the experience, but it’s not how i’d like to live my life everyday. my skillz were honed well enough, though, that where i live now, i easily shop at the local exotic food market which caters to somali and syrian refugees with little fear. (~_^)

here are a couple more articles on being a freier:

“Thou shalt not be a freier”
“By Shahar Ilan | Jan. 28, 2007

“The newspaper Shiluv (Integration), which was published in English by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry in 2002, explained to immigrant parents that in order for their children to function at school and in the army, they should not to be too sensitive. The children have to learn not to be freiers, it said, adding: You might find that they become more assertive and less polite than you would have hoped….”

and…

“Word of the Day / Freier פראייר”
“Many of the stereotypes that foreigners love to level against Israelis may derive from a national fear of being taken for a sucker.
“By Shoshana Kordova | Jan. 14, 2013

“Why do Israelis crowd around the doors of a bus, elbows flailing, instead of lining up neatly and politely one behind the other? Well, yes, it’s partly because they’ve never been taught to do so, but it’s also because if they don’t get the chance to shove their way to the front or sneak their way in from the side, that might make them (cue impending sense of dread) freierim, to use the plural form of this Yiddish word.

“And why do Israelis who are buying just a few items at the supermarket feel compelled to ask the person before them in line if they can cut in front? In part, at least, it’s because they don’t want to be the freier who waits an eon just to buy a bag of milk and loaf of bread….”

previously: historic mating patterns of ashkenazi jews

(note: comments do not require an email. bus queues in farringdon, 1955)

33 Comments

  1. Well, there’s some exaggeration in these articles – self-flagellation from left-of-center opinion writers

    Israelis aren’t like Americans but I can tell you that, eg, Italians are definitely more aggressive drivers than us.

    Reply

  2. Ah! So this is where Jewish stereotypes come from. I never noticed this type of behavior among Jews I met growing up but I did once I moved to a different city. Maybe it was west Ashkenazi vs. east.

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  3. “the basic assumption is that people . . . should not be trusted until proven trustworthy.”

    Well, I’ll be damned, I’m an Israeli! That explains a lot…

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  4. I’m not sure I agree that this is necessarily “clannish” behavior. For one thing, aren’t these Jews among Jews being jerks? OTH, which may or may not support your hypothesis, the not waiting in line to get on a bus thing is exactly reduplicated in China.

    Reply

  5. This post came right after Netanyahu’s visit to D.C. to speak before congress a few days ago…

    Are you telling us something, chick?

    :P

    Reply

  6. Here’s an appropriate joke I found on the web

    A wealthy Gentile businessman walks into Bergdorf Goodman and tries on a Zegna suit. The salesman tells him how great the suit makes him look and the Gentile responds, “This is a very fine suit. How much is it?”

    The salesman says, “It’s $1,900.”

    Without missing a beat, the Gentile says, “OK, I’ll take it!”

    Reply

  7. An acquaintance of mine, a British Jew, returned from her first trip to Israel declaring “It’s vile, they’re horrible, no child of mine will ever spend time on a kibbutz.” Until she told me this story I hadn’t known she was Jewish.

    On the other hand, she has always been a keen supporter of the political party which has done most to fill Britain with Moslems and East Europeans. This policy is proving not to be Jew-friendly; rather predictably, I’d have said.

    Reply

  8. Yes, a number of Israelis have commented on the fact that visitors often come away from visits to the Middle East disliking Israel, just because Israelis are so damned rude. Norman Podhoretz, no less, commented on how detrimental this was to Israeli public relations.

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  9. I am Swedish, possible the most freier-y people on Earth, and even talking about violating social codes like that makes me angry and physiologically prepared for violence.

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  10. Evidence for natural selection ? Are not these the sort of antisocial and devil take the hindmost characteristics that would aid personal survival in an extreme situation, such as a death camp ?

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  11. Now I know why Iranians and Israelis are heading butts so much…. it’s because neither of them wants to be seen as a freier!! On the contrary this is an international pissing match to show-off who is the biggest, hairiest, macho, who can push around others.

    Now if only Americans weren’t taken on so much by this peacock show, but you’ll never get reason through to our Izruhl-firsters.

    Reply

  12. A history fairly similar to that of the gypsies. Over 1000’s of years, thrown out of 100’s of nations, always under the same type of accusations.

    Accusations of anti-freier-ism, basically.

    Every time, thrown out protesting innocence, victimhood, antisemitism, prejudice.

    Reply

  13. @ihtg – “…I can tell you that, eg, Italians are definitely more aggressive drivers than us.”

    speaking of drivers…my persian friend that i mentioned in the post…she and i used to carpool to work together, and still to this day i can only thank god or good fortune that i survived the days it was her turn to drive. (>.<) man was she reckless and aggressive out there! we did always arrive at our destination sooner than when i drove, though…. (~_^)

    Reply

  14. @luke – “I’m not sure I agree that this is necessarily ‘clannish’ behavior. For one thing, aren’t these Jews among Jews being jerks?”

    yeah, i think this is absolutely “clannish.” remember that clannish just means a disregard for the commonweal to some degree or another, so elbows on boarding buses would definitely fit. doesn’t matter at all if the other people are from your same ethnic group. see saudi arabia, for example. ethnicity doesn’t really enter into it at all, in fact.

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  15. @kamran – “This post came right after Netanyahu’s visit to D.C. to speak before congress a few days ago… Are you telling us something, chick?”

    well, i guess i should’ve posted this before his visit! (~_^)

    srsly — if you read the original article, the author does discuss the peace negotiations, etc., in light of this freier business.

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  16. @alext – “… i think i’ve finally found something useful to contribute here. I think you’ll find the following article to be quite interesting…”

    oh, very interesting! thanks! (^_^) i had heard about the saudi’s efforts wrt cousin marriage and genetic disorders, but i hadn’t heard about how the project is going. glad to hear they’re achieving success (a 60% rate of dissuading cousins who share genes for genetic diseases to not marry — still, total cousin marriage rate has risen)! (^_^)

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  17. @toddy cat – “Yes, a number of Israelis have commented on the fact that visitors often come away from visits to the Middle East disliking Israel, just because Israelis are so damned rude.”

    i remember flipping through a lonely planet guide to israel in a bookstore many (many!) years ago (when there were still bookstores! (~_^) ), and the only part i still recall was the FIRST paragraph of the entire book on how a traveller to israel should get mentally prepared for all the rude behavior. i think the lack of orderly queueing for buses was actually mentioned. =P

    i remember thinking at the time that the population must be pretty rude, indeed, if that’s how the travel guide starts! =o

    (still haven’t been to israel to see for myself, d*mnit!)

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  18. @anders – “I am Swedish, possible the most freier-y people on Earth, and even talking about violating social codes like that makes me angry and physiologically prepared for violence.”

    heh! =P

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  19. @dearieme – “Had you seen this one, chick?”

    no, i hadn’t. thanks! lots of interesting stuff there, for sure. richard north (the blogger there) had another go at the “tribalism” of pakistanis in britain in another post. much of what he says is accurate, i’m afraid. =/

    i hadn’t heard about the (alleged?) cover-up of child abuse by an orthodox rabbi (the rabbi doing the covering-up, that is) in australia, either. =/ sounds an awful lot like the catholic church scandals. =/

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  20. @anonymous – “Evidence for natural selection? Are not these the sort of antisocial and devil take the hindmost characteristics that would aid personal survival in an extreme situation, such as a death camp?”

    like jayman said above, natural selection takes longer than that (just one generation). i’d bet that this sets of “non-freier” behaviors go back farther — selected for in eastern europe over the course of the medieval period is my bet.

    but, yeah…you’d think that the most ruthless and self-centered would stand some good chances of surviving the conditions that were seen in the holocaust. =/ unless actually banding together was more successful. dunno.

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  21. @kamran – “Now I know why Iranians and Israelis are heading butts so much…. it’s because neither of them wants to be seen as a freier!!”

    yes!!

    Reply

  22. @anonymousforgoodreason – “A history fairly similar to that of the gypsies.”

    not exactly. ashkenazi jews probably underwent a selection for high intelligence in northern europe [pdf], whereas the gypsies did not. major — and majorly important — difference there.

    both groups did remain outsiders, though, due to endogamous mating patterns.

    i’m positing an additional nuance to the picture, though: that western and eastern ashkenazis went down different evolutionary pathways during medieval europe, the eastern one resulting in more “clannishness.” please keep in mind that this is still a working hypothesis.

    Reply

  23. This was a very fascinating article. Much of the behaviors of Israelis discussed in the article, I experience whenever I’m in Atlanta on business (especially the driving). I’ve come to realize that when it comes to ethnic compatibility, that accommodating personalities are the key factor. Like Anders above, I felt my pulse quicken as I read the article. Just the thought of such rude behavior enrages me.

    Reply

  24. My innocent gentile mind can’t really process this kind of worldview.

    A culture of constant lying, cheating and backstabbing is rationalized as “being tough”

    It is bizarre.

    Reply

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