Operation Shock and Awesome

I am on a secret mission whose subversive goal is altering the cultural makeup of Israeli society.

By MALKAH FLEISHER
March 25, 2010 02:42
4 minute read.
great smile 88

great smile 88. (photo credit: )

 
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I wanted to debrief all you good people about a mission I am on. Although it is still pending, it has been declassified, and so now I can share it. It is called Operation Shock and Awesome, a secret mission I volunteered for, with the subversive goal of altering the cultural makeup of Israeli society.

I know, I know – you didn’t know I was doing covert ops. But you can do it too, if you’re interested. Here’s what the assignment is all about.

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Operation Shock and Awesome is a smiling and friendliness offensive. Newcomers to this concept may still be feeling all puckery and cynical. Keep reading.

The idea of is to smile randomly at people for almost uncomfortable amounts of time, while making full eye contact. It also involves polite or even friendly conversation, and acts of kindness. The objective is to crack the tough exterior of Israelis, expose the warm gooey center, and sometimes to even achieve various degrees of cooperation.

I HAVE been participating in this mission since parachuting (landing in an El Al plane) into Israel in 2003. The operation was named after several years in the field, after which time a pattern was established.

1.Shock: First, the subject is taken aback by this unexpected and seemingly undeserved act of kindness. Targets may respond by looking around to see who you’re really smiling at, furrowing their eyebrows with suspicion that you want something from them, squinting at you to determine if you’re someone they’ve met before but can’t remember, or most likely, appearing genuinely surprised.

2. Awesome: The subject responds with unbounded joy. Because the subject is generally out of practice in such responses, that joy can take several forms: a relaxation of the facial muscles and a slight rise of the corners of the mouth with an inability to divert her eyes from you (clearly an apparition of love and care only akin to Elijah the Prophet), a low chuckle and a “shalom” when realizing that you are not being friendly out of obligation or desire to acquire something but out of a simple interest in being nice, or effusive blessings for you, your whole family, and the entire Jewish nation.

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Years of conducting this social experiment have shown me that Israelis are suckers for a broad American smile. Almost all of them, male and female alike, have no idea what to do with you when you approach or walk by while smiling a them. It is not a cultural norm here, and despite their being tritely pigeonholed as brash and coarse, Israelis are actually largely bashful and unassuming. A big, warm smile beckons them out into the sunshine, a place in which they are not always comfortable, but which immediately causes them to brighten and bloom.

I have Guerilla-smiled thousands of people over the years – young, old, male, female, secular, haredi, gay, straight, left, right, nice, super-annoying, and everyone in between. I have seen this simple, no-cash-down investment go straight to the bank every time.

It’s amazing how a body can relax, a frazzled mother calm down, a worried worker ease up on himself, a tired driver let up on the horn, a group of people back down from an altercation, all from this simple act.

Jews get tense. Israelis get tenser. We need to import the smile.

SOME OF us are already practiced in this ritual, particularly immigrants from North America. We would do our country, and ourselves, a great service by attacking our brothers with barrages of smiles.

FYI: A good smiler almost doesn’t need protectsia in Israel! I say almost because while one can “hear” a smile, I find smiles are less effective over the phone, or in e-mail. But in person, my experience has been that an Israeli in a position of influence will bend over backwards for you if you express the least bit of personal interest in him or caring for his well-being. You may need some Vitamin P (Protectsia), but they’re in even more desperate need of Vitamin L (Love)!

Warning: Jews are smart. Israelis are smarter. Although new to the smile, they are quick on the uptake. They know a fake when they see one. So those who attempt smiling and/or friendliness must be genuine.

What about those who want to gain all the benefits of smiling and friendliness, but don’t actually feel so smiley or friendly toward Israelis? What if you’re actually pretty ticked off at them for one reason or another? Then fake it.

But waaaiiit a minute, Malkah! You just said that we have to be genuine! That’s right, you do. But you will be. If you start smiling at your random Israeli stranger (Israeli stranger is an oxymoron), you’ll actually start to believe you love them! Before you know it, you’ll be an addict.

Pretty soon, Operation Shock and Awesome will have everyone walking around with goofy grins and missing work for all the back-patting going on.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it. Look every cranky-looking Israeli in the eye, and let them know that they’re busted – you’re not buying their all-business facade. You’ll see they’re happy to drop their cover.

This message will not self-destruct. In fact, it’ll be in cyberspace for a long, long time.

The writer is a graduate of George Washington University and Cardozo Law School and is a freelance journalist and commentator living in Beit El.

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