The Sucker


When moving to Israel one is confronted with a kaleidoscopic set of decisions. Choosing a city, choosing a neighborhood, choosing an apartment, choosing an ulpan, choosing a bank, choosing a cell phone company, choosing a health insurance company, choosing a method of commute, choosing an accountant, choosing a yoga studio, choosing a beach, choosing friends, choosing girl (boy) friend...These are all hard choices, and here like in any other country, you get some right, and you get some wrong.

One thing is, nevertheless, permanent, Israelis will always say, “You could have done a better choice” or a version of “You paid that? You should have paid way less.”  The sad part is that most of the time they are right, and there is some truth to the reason they give for their disparaging comments – “I am only saying this for your own good.” But good is not how you feel when you realize you might have taken a wrong decision you could not have predicted.

I try not to care about past decisions, and I think of myself as a laid back individual who eats and sleeps as much as possible, but I confess all this honesty has given me a great amount of stress.

 Why do people care so much about my decisions? And why do I never seem to make the right ones?

A patient Israeli friend once explained why Israelis always like to say you made a bad decision and by doing so she revealed one of the most important characteristics of this country. Listen, all you wannabe Israelis and non-Israelis, this lesson that I am about to share is free and might save you years of feeling bad.

My friend told me, and it has been corroborated by all other sabras I know, that since they are born all Israelis are taught a life motto that serves them and the country a like ­– “Do not be a sucker.”  Israelis are not obsessed with  “never again” or “build a garden in the desert.” Those are stereotypes. No, no, the national motto is “do not be a sucker.” This is the first and only nation on the planet dedicated to the ones who know better. Yes, an Israeli fears more being taken advantage of, than being persecuted, or not being happy (whatever that means). Other countries are dedicated to the pursuit of things like happiness, liberty, equality and fraternity. Israel pursuits the non-sucker.  

Under this motto my Israeli friends are really helping me when they share their unwarranted opinions. They are telling me to not be a sucker; in a weird way they are telling me to be Israeli. What I think is missing between their advice and my guilt is the reminder that most of the time, during our lives, that’s what we all are – suckers. I don’t care if you are Israeli or Chinese, when you move to another country you are always a foreigner in a harsh land, a darker sheep, a slight outcast, an Israelite in Egypt. So say goodnight to the sucker, last time you will see a sucker like this again!