“It’s called flip-flop kinetics,” the pharmacist explained, showing me a
sustained-release antihistamine. I was seeking relief from allergies that struck
during my two-and-a-half week trip to the United States.
I was combining
business and pleasure, east and west, family and friends, lectures and meetings,
consulting and visiting.
In Washington, I gave a lecture on leadership
and a productive discussion developed on key factors in the success, or failure,
of organizations. It was great to reconnect to old partners and friends, in our
new civilian capacities.
I was honored to be hosted at the Massachusetts
State House for a discussion on current events and cooperation opportunities
between Israel and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Massachusetts is
teaming with innovation and initiative. I believe that we have many similarities
and joint interests, and should broaden our collaboration.
I was exposed
to the programs and resources invested in supporting veterans. Listening
to the secretary of veterans’ affairs passionately describe his vision and
mission was inspiring. As a member of the IDF Veteran Organization’s External
Relations Committee, I bring back a strong recommendation for dialogue and
In a heartwarming visit to the Trinity Evangelical Church in
North Reading, Massachusetts, I spoke before a group preparing for a trip to
Israel. I gave an overview on life in Israel and our challenges, both external
and internal. I enjoyed the responses of “Hallelujah!” and “Praise the Lord!”
El Paso, Texas, I met wonderful people. Besides experiencing openness and
friendship, I learned an important lesson about honest, hard work and the joy of
building and creating.
A Pakistani Muslim, an Israeli Jew and an American
Christian met in a bar. This is not the beginning of a joke, but a description
of friends I joined in Los Angeles. I enjoyed the lively discussion and analysis
of world affairs, by some of the smartest people I have ever met.
University of Southern California, I felt over-dressed while touring the
beautiful campus. I don’t think I ever saw so many people wearing
At the USC Shoah Foundation, I was in awe of the dedication
with which the valuable testimonies of Holocaust survivors are preserved and
made accessible to educators and the public.
In evaluating organizations
and programs with international ties, I found that a lack of deep cultural
understanding burdens and even hinders successful cooperation. There also still
seems to be a tendency to compartmentalize instead of join forces and share,
even when striving to achieve common goals. I also witnessed reliance on remote
communication instead of talking, exchanging liaisons and working
While speaking to various communities and organizations, I was
frequently asked the open-ended question: “What do you think about Iran?” or the
more direct: “When are you going to do it?” I did my best to cover the threat,
probabilities, capabilities, moral justification and most important – timing. I
argued that Israel and the US share the same vision of prevention and both
ultimately don’t want to see Israel as the main actor.
After Iran, the
second-most common question was about the US presidential elections. It ranged
from “Don’t you think reelecting Obama will be disastrous for Israel?” to “Isn’t
it true that security relations peaked under the Obama administration?” I
couldn’t and wouldn’t state my political leaning, although I have opinions on
the various issues being debated, from abortion and gay rights to the
appropriate strategy for the Middle East.
I am amazed at the polarization
in US politics and quite frankly disappointed that the debate deals less with
values and ideas, and more with disqualifying and slandering of the other
A hot topic during my visit was accusations of inconsistency, or
“flip-flopping,” on key issues. I believe that reevaluating and changing your
mind is a positive and admirable quality, and that flip-flopping, zigzagging,
U-turning and back-flipping are not always bad, except of course if it’s used by
a politician to appease and please different audiences.
day-to-day life and cultural differences.
Driving in Los Angeles during
rush hour is no fun, but still better than in Israel. Apparently, simple
cultural norms, such as keeping a distance and maintaining your lane, contribute
to a more relaxed experience, and fewer accidents. I heard only one car
honk during the entire trip.
From coast to coast, Americans were
friendly, kind and patient. I knew that “How ya doin’?” wasn’t always really
personal and caring, but I enjoyed it.
When store clerks in California
asked, “How was your weekend?” I decided not to elaborate, and made do with
“Great, and yours?”
I was touched and thankful for good friends who opened their
hearts and their homes. A special treat was meeting dear relatives, some of whom
I haven’t met in 20 years.
As usual, I was angry and envious to find
lower prices and a better variety than in Israel, especially when most of the
products are manufactured closer to Israel than the US.
I’m stating the
obvious, but I was again amazed to see too much alcohol, too much junk food, too
many additives and mega-sizes. Even a standard drink can is 7.5 percent bigger
than in Israel.
At the airport heading home, an Israeli official assisted
me by bending the rules on overweight luggage, and even showed me how to avoid
the supervisor. I was beginning to feel at home.
I partook in the ritual
of taking off shoes at security, and envied the guy in front of me who
thoughtfully wore flip-flops.
Landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, I was happy
to be home, but quickly flip-flopped when people pushed by me to disembark the
aircraft and overrun me in line for passport control.
A close friend once
told me: “I love the US when I’m in Israel, and love Israel when I’m in the
The writer is a former Israel Air Force pilot and founder of
Cross-Cultural Strategies Ltd., that provides multidisciplinary consulting with
an emphasis on bridging cultural gaps.