Homogeneity in Israel causes culture shock to diversity after just 18 months

Phil mashed up my post on the Mamilla talk at Columbia and an article about the Olmert scandal by Isabel Kershner in the New York Times to ask an important question: "Are there non-Jews in West Jerusalem?"

I’m going riff on this further by bringing in an article from Ha’aretz today, mindful that, this time, the question — "Are there any non-Jews in that neighborhood?" — has an answer.

The article is a shameless screed against diversity. The author, Elie Klein, a native New Yorker, moved to Israel with his family some 18 months ago. Since then, he has been "rewired" by Israel’s Zionist narrative (his words, not mine), and holds contempt for his homeland.

Now an "Aliyah enthusiast" and "public relations specialist", Klein deigns to tell us why he found his former home so off-putting:

  • His body shudders — "actually shook from head to toe" — when he saw Newark’s industrial park from an airport window.
  • In "brief encounters with taxi drivers, cashiers, airport security officers, flight attendants and other travelers," people looked at Klein’s kippah.
  • The "abundant English-language signage in the airports and on the roadways" made him feel "uncomfortable and unwelcome,"
  • as did a "complete lack of Kosher dining options just about everywhere [he] went." (In Florida? I don’t believe it for a second. And this was certainly not the case in the "Miami Jewish Home and Hospital… in North Miami Beach" where Klein was visiting his ailing father.)

Is this superficial (and, in the last case, bogus) stuff, or what?

Now that he’s in Israel, Klein says, he doesn’t have to think about "long-winded explanations to employers about the religious significance of your week-long vacation during busy season." Was this really the case when, as his biography states, Klein was the North American director of The Elite Academy, a joint program of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency? Is it really that important to him that "taxi drivers, cashiers, airport security officers, and flight attendants" all be exactly like him?

Klein’s objections seems to be less against the fact that there are so few options specifically for Jews, but that there are options for anyone else at all. When you consider his biographical data at the end of the article, and Phil’s question of yesterday, it brings this notion into sharp focus.

Beit Shemesh, the town West of Jerusalem where Klein hails from, has exactly zero non-Jews, according to the uncited Israeli Bureau of Statistics report mentioned in its Wikipedia page. It is 100 percent Jewish and other non-Arab.

I, too, might be shocked if I left a place where everyone was like me and traveled to a place where there is diversity, even if there is a benign curiosity in such things (say, glancing at an usual hat). But I don’t have to deal with those problems much in New York City. It’s the thought of living in place where everyone is the same that makes me shudder.

Here people sometimes might stare or even glare at appearance — I wear long hair, a beard, and underdress for nearly all events — but it’s okay. People speak Spanish everywhere, and it doesn’t bother me. The English signs don’t seem to bother them, either. I live on the Upper West Side where, perhaps to Klein’s surprise, people often walk by me speaking Hebrew and wearing yarmulkes. They don’t get a fist glance, let alone a second.

This is not a world that rejects Klein, but a world that he rejects.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 98 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. ruth says:

    Happy 62nd Birthday, Israel ! Happy Independence Day!
    Here is to your continued prosperity!

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Good luck with that. The American spigot is quickly going to run dry, one way or another.

      Why the hell can’t Zionists ever actually talk about the topic, anyway?

    • Happy ethnic cleansing Israel..

    • Ruth
      May this site, an anti-Zionist site, be for ever, a nail in your backside..

    • Danaa says:

      Your “independence” day is a day of shoah for the people you displaced. On this memorial day, I’d like to honor the many brave palestinians – most of them ordinary citizens – who died in the line of carrying out the duty of all humans – being human. Unfortunately, humanity is caught in the line of fire of israelis.

      This should be a day of mourning, not happiness, mourning for a great injustice perpetrated on innocent people who’ve done little other than trying to survive.

      For the palestinians, your “independence day” reminds me of the way turkeys feel on Thanksgiving. kind of macabre – especially with the west bank under lock down and half of the people of the greater israel forbidden to shed a tear for the incomprehensible loss they suffered. Good thing I’m [mostly] vegetarian….

      • Thank you Danaa. It’s indeed a day of mourning, but I do not expect this Ruthless French Israeli to understand the suffering of the indigenous people of Palestine.

      • yonira says:

        Danaa that holiday is coming up on May 15th.

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        • Shmuel says:

          yonira: Danaa that holiday is coming up on May 15th.

          To take Danaa’s meat metaphor a little further, trying to separate the Nakba from Israeli independence day is like having different names for animals when they’re in the barn and on the grill (cow-beef, sheep-mutton, pig-pork). We all know they’re the same, but it’s much easier to enjoy that steak if you don’t think about what it used to be and how it got from there to here.

        • Chu says:

          Shmuel, these analogy are making me hungry, I haven’t had breakfast yet…

    • Shingo says:

      “Happy 62nd Birthday, Israel !”

      We hope the party is as good as the one you held 4 years ago to celebrate the 60th anniversary of hte bombing of the Kind David Hotel!!

      “Happy Independence Day!”

      As in independence from human rights and international law.

      “Here is to your continued prosperity!”

      May you continue to suck the blood out of American taxpayers.

    • eGuard says:

      Posted at 10:16 pm (USA)? If you use the Gregorian calendar, in Tel Aviv it’s already April 20th. If you observe the Hebrew calender, the day has ended at sundown some hours ago. How rude to arrive a day late on a party, wake the host by yelling and all this empty-handed– at least, at arrival.

      • Shmuel says:

        When 5 Iyar falls on a Monday, Independence Day is postponed by a day and is celebrated on 6 Iyar (sundown 19 April to sundown 20 April, this year.

        Here’s how some Israelis choose to mark the day: link to indymedia.org.il

        The ceremony presents an alternative to an official, whitewashed nationalistic ceremony taking place at the same time on Mt. Herzl. Your presence will encourage the beacon lighters to continue their activism for peace human rights, and will signal to Israeli decision makers that that there are many who will not buy their empty slogans

        • eGuard says:

          OK, so Ruth was on the right day. That only leaves the waking, yelling and empty-handedness. (btw do I understand that the site times posts in Chicago-time?).

    • Ruth is clueless, ruthless and cruel!

      A nice ring to it, No?

    • Mooser says:

      Don’t forget to read the Hannah Arendt post at JSF

  2. RoHa says:

    “Elie Klein, a native New Yorker” says that in NY “abundant English-language signage in the airports and on the roadways” made him feel “uncomfortable and unwelcome”.

    Signs in the common language of the country of which he is a native made him feel unwelcome?

    • Chaos4700 says:

      So, like, Zionists actually do hate America? Like, seriously? :)

      • RoHa says:

        He certainly hates the evil American goys who show their anti-Semitism by putting up signs in the common language of America, the language that all Americans learn at school, the language of American law and governance, of American …

        Wait. Sorry, my mistake. I’ve just read that again. It says English language signage. Americans don’t use English.

  3. Avi says:

    Israel, so it seems, is a magnet for the socially dysfunctional individuals with very low self-esteem. I feel really sick to my stomach that Palestinians have to put up with creatures like this Klein guy. I wish that on no one.

    By the way, if he loathes English so much, why the does he bother writing articles in that language?

  4. Ten to one this guy will never give up his American passport.

  5. Keith says:

    “The article is a shameless screed against diversity.”

    I beg to differ. Let us begin by noting that the Israeli article writer is a “public relations specialist.” The article is internal hasbara, pure and simple. “Hey. My Jewish brothers, have we got it good, or what?” Zionism is rife with internal contradictions, Israel is rife with internal conflicts. Ashkenazi versus Sephardic, secular versus orthodox, etc. What holds it together? Fear/hatred of the “other.” The Palestinians, the Arabs, “radical Islam,” etc. If the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims would suddenly disappear, Israel would likely implode. The article is an attempt to create a sense of shared destiny amongst diverse groups of Israeli Jews.

    As an aside, had Israel ethnically cleansed all or almost all of the Palestinians during the Nakba, there would have been no need for the Ashkenazi founders to encourage non-Ashkenazi Jewish immigration to maintain a solid Jewish majority for “Jewish and Democratic,” hence, Israel would have become all Ashkenazi, all the time.

    • Shmuel says:

      Keith: Let us begin by noting that the Israeli article writer is a “public relations specialist.” The article is internal hasbara, pure and simple.

      Exactly. It’s like that other article posted here a little while ago, on Hamas’ indoctrination of kids. I thought newspapers were supposed to charge for ads and mark them “Advertisement”.

    • potsherd says:

      Internal hasbara, it must be pointed out, for Anglo Israelis. “No, guys, you don’t really want to go back there.” Reverse emmigration is a big problem for Israel. People get to the place and see the ugly reality, realize they were sold a load of goods, and go back home.

  6. RoHa says:

    “all Ashkenazi, all the time. ”

    Great slogan!

  7. Avi says:

    Seeing as Elie Klein has a problem with the signage in the English language, perhaps he prefers Yiddish? What other language did he speak while living in the US? Anyway, perhaps someone could help him out and give him directions in Yiddish for how to get to Azazel. Any takers?

  8. I like the prospect of everyone taking a sabbath. Thats the way it used to be in the states, on Sunday, before commercialism took over into a 24/7 world.

    And, I think it is perfectly fine that in one country in the world, people are expected to get used to that day of quiet (except for emergencies) being Friday night to Saturday morning, or that Jewish holidays are the holidays.

    Jews have lived historically in ONLY places where one had to adjust to Christmas, or to Sunday, or to no day, or explanations why you alone needed that day off mid-week.

    In the name of diversity, the author is opposing diversity.

    There is a choice of norm. They are conforming to some social value, some imposition. So, the question is whether one conforms to commercialism, to Judaism, to Islam, to Christianity, to Hinduism.

    When in Rome….

    Live with it. Its not a fundamental imposition on you, especially if your needs are met.

    And, please distinguish between Mr Klein blaming the US for not being accommodating to his specific needs, rather that feeling uncomfortable.

    • braciole says:

      Jews have lived historically in ONLY places where one had to adjust to Christmas, or to Sunday, or to no day, or explanations why you alone needed that day off mid-week.

      Witty, you are just so full of crap – what about the Jews who lived in Muslim countries or India. Or perhaps you a racist who believes that only Ashkenazi can be “real” Jews. Come on Witty, which is it? A pile of ignorant crap or a pile of racist crap?

      • Chu says:

        Hey it’s Israel. It doesn’t say ‘we welcome all’. Klein is shedding his skin for the new frontier, for it welcomes Jewish kin to the land of their ancestors. It’s a Utopia for the Family, better yet a grand soiree with select invitations.

        So like Witty says “In the name of diversity, the author is opposing diversity.” (this should be the motto of the NYPD)

    • Citizen says:

      Re: “In the name of diversity, the author is opposing diversity.”

      I guess that’s how the old German-American Bund felt, and the Aryan Brotherhood camp with ramshackle watch tower, out there in the western woods, or even–every summer camp has its own entrance rules?
      And where does the historical Nazi state fit in here, and it’s reach out to ethnic Germans in Nazi OT, not to mention the forced transfer of ethnic Germans who had lived in eastern european countries for centuries after WW2?

      Just asking.

      (“There is a choice of norm. They are conforming to some social value, some imposition. So, the question is whether one conforms to (pick your norm).”

      When in Rome…

    • potsherd says:

      What fun on Shabbos in Israel! Let’s go out and throw stones, set the trash on fire! Beat up some Arabs!

  9. Debonnaire says:

    It’s the kind of fear of self-discovery that’s the antithesis of Native American culture. It’s so morbid and creepy that as another post said – the idea of being enslaved and tortured by such a worthless little worm – it’s a wonder that every Palestinian did not become a suicide bomber.

    • Have you studied Native American culture(s)?

      They were diverse, ranging from the enlightened to the brutally martial.

      The tribes warred frequently (and not in the “counting coo” romantic revision). One tribe dispossessed another, including being effected by European migrations, but not only.

      • Mooser says:

        “Have you studied Native American culture(s)?”

        Yonira has, and found it lacking.

        • I read some. I found variety and that the romantic portrayal was false.

          I also learned that the romanticization of Indians, entirely distracted people from issues of current Indians, current law for example.

  10. Shmuel says:

    RW: I like the prospect of everyone taking a sabbath. Thats the way it used to be in the states, on Sunday, before commercialism took over into a 24/7 world.

    Man, it’s been a long time since you were last in Israel.

    • Avi says:


      Some levity. Enjoy:

    • Saleema says:


      When I read that, I wondered something different– how would Witty like to rest on Fridays. link to afp.google.com

      • Shmuel says:

        When I was a kid, I used to go to the British Council library in Jerusalem. I thought the librarians there had the coolest job in the world – off Friday-Saturday-Sunday and all Muslim, Jewish and Christian holidays.

        • Reminds me of a Jewish-Catholic attorney I once knew.

          Though totally irreverent and nonreligious, he always managed to tell the judge that he couldn’t possibly make it to court that day–”It’s the Feast of St. Basil!” or “I strictly observe Tisha B’Av!”

    • Citizen says:

      Indeed, I just read about a store, owned by Israeli Jews, and serving even orthodox Jews; the store is called Treif–it has a huge sign on front. With a bunch of orthodox Jews inside eating, one rabbi outside said, that was a good sign because it was like a red light telling real Jews not to enter.

      • braciole says:

        Citizen – you left out the bit about it serving pork and shellfish.

        The need for rabbinical supervision of kosher food always struck me as a good idea, it made sure that the rabbi got paid for standing around and also ensured that he wasn’t left unattended – perhaps the Pope should introduce a similar idea for Catholic priests, it might solve some of his current problems.

  11. sammy says:

    Isn’t Klein just saying in a longwinded way that he doesn’t mind blacks or Hispanics as long as they don’t live in his neighborhood?

    He sounds racist to me.

  12. This fellow shows all the usual symptoms of a fresh new immigrant (I know, because I’ve been a fresh new immigrant to several countries) – 6 weeks euphoria, then a long disillusionment, then a slow build-up to familiarity. On your first trip back home, you suddenly notice certain things that almost offend you, because you’ve adopted new standards, almost unknowingly.

    But the examples this character pulls out are ludicrous:

    - Hey! Why is no-one else wearing beany hats? And why are they looking at me so funny? (I know; I wore a skullcap for a full year during my childhood because of a crazy X-Ray cure for ringworm that made all my hair fall out)

    - Hey! Why are the airport and road signs in American English? They make me feel ‘uncomfortable and unwelcome’. What if you had seen road signs in French, Russian, or Chinese?

    - Hey! Why “a complete lack of Kosher dining options just about everywhere”
    Did they have halal options?

    Do you honestly think McDs should have a kosher section of every little four-bit burger house (together with the intrusive inspections of knives, cooking pans, whether shrimps or milk got in somehow, etc)

  13. Chu says:

    Klien’s story is reminiscent of people traveling to Guyana to the famous “Jones town” [Peoples Temple Agricultural Project] and had to renounce their families and former US way of life. Go Klein! Another small step in the wrong direction…

    Hey who says people at an old age don’t like roll playing games?

  14. Walid says:

    You guys are unjustly picking on Klein that simply got homesick. He’s probably from a neighbourhood in Bet Shemesh where they have a Saudi-styled morality squad prowling the streets to punish immodestly-dressed lassies and where a young lady was beaten a couple of years back because she wouldn’t go to the back of the bus. That fun place where Klein now lives is where some families were threatened for watching TV and where a shopping mall had to have separate shopping hours for men and women. It’s no wonder the US felt alien to this guy. Ruth would tell you that Klein is misunderstood.

  15. edwin says:

    Beit Shemesh, the town West of Jerusalem where Klein hails from, has exactly zero non-Jews, according to the uncited Israeli Bureau of Statistics report mentioned in its Wikipedia page. It is 100 percent Jewish and other non-Arab.

    That would make Beit Shemesh a sundown town.

    link to sundown.afro.illinois.edu
    link to sundown.afro.illinois.edu

    • Shmuel says:

      Beit Shemesh sits on the lands of the ethnically cleansed villages of Dayr Aban and ‘Artuf, but something tells me Klein doesn’t know or care, as long as the food’s kosher, no one stares and all the signs are in Hebrew.

  16. Walid says:

    Sundown is more like it because it surely isn’t the house of the rising sun, the name Bet Shemesh can throw you off. It was also reported from there that stone-throwing riots erupted when the owner of a pizza parlor, who had received threats warning against allowing boys and girls to congregate together, took down a sign calling for “modesty.”

  17. For me the tone of dissent is most important in what it affects after Palestine is formed as Palestine.

    If the tone of Palestine’s birth by solidarity is warring on everyone, including on those that supports its health and independance, then the post national period will be again of trigger fingers.

    There is a great danger of Palestine as a state engaging in provocations, and that is actual war, rather than guerilla hostility. I understand why Palestinians would be slow to get to that status.

    The common thread of both Lebanon and Gaza was of semi-official militias initiating and then compelling (by escalation) states of aggression with Israel. The states of Lebanon and of Gaza had the out of claiming “it wasn’t the people of Lebanon that shelled your cities”.

    When an actual state does the aggressions, it becomes war between states, not the deniable skirmish between a militia and a state.

    • braciole says:

      Witty – are you some Israeli version of Big Blue, you know, a computer that is supposed to be able to mimic human intelligence? ‘Cos if you are, tell your designers that they aren’t there yet as from this comment I can’t tell whether you are man or machine. On the whole, I tend to regard the latter as more likely

    • potsherd says:

      Why not focus on the great danger of Israel engaging in provocations, just as it has done throughout its history?

    • Mooser says:

      Gosh, Richard, no wonder you wish to avoid any direct discussion of the discussion. It’s probable your son will have the same problems after he gets butted and they but him out of chabad.

      You guys do know Mr. Jewish Yoga Tantrum’s son ran off to the settlements, right? I wonder how much Witty sends him, per month.

  18. Walid says:

    Richard, the first is part of the Lebanese government and has 80% of the population behind it in its struggle to block Israel’s never-ending invasions and the second is the legally elected government of the Palestinians that the US and Israel refused to recognize.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Also, Witty refuses to do factual comparisons. Like say, how many hospitals Israelis have destroyed in Gaza and Lebanon versus how many Israeli hospitals have ever been destroyed.

      • Donald says:

        He lives in his own universe, where there are no Israeli provocations, only Israeli responses (occasionally a bit careless) to fiendish Arab atrocities. That’s the story line commonly espoused in the US mainstream and it needs to be corrected, but for RW himself it’s hopeless.

        • I live in the universe of considering the consequences of strategies pursued.

          You guys would lose a lot of chess games with the extent of thinking that you do, one step out, not three not four.

          I hope that you advocate for a Palestinian state. I do, not because I think it is likely that they will elect Hamas and then end in an all out war with Israel, resulting in more territory annexed.

          I hope that Palestine evolves to a real state, a state with the rule of law, dependable institutions, good relations with its neighbor Israel, so that the borders can be more fluid than currently, so that people from each state can safely travel in the other.

          Its forward thinking, rather than backward thinking.

          Your most important points are that that vision is different than the way things are now, not any point about the past. Those are just themes to compel distrust only, rather than even consideration of options.

        • Mooser says:

          Shorter Witty: We have the biggest Shabbes Goy in the entire world, and the Palestinians better watch out!

        • You guys would lose a lot of chess games with the extent of thinking that you do, one step out, not three not four.
          Not necessarily no. If you’re a chess aficionado,( which clearly you’re not because we call them moves not steps) you’d surely know what the great Capablanca responded to a Russian journalist who wanted to know how many moves Capa planned ahead: “Only one ! The best!

  19. eee says:

    The usual anti-Israel hatred. Israel is a diverse place, much more diverse than the segregated US. In the US communities are segregated according to class and race by the real estate they can afford and the schooling they can but their children.

    For example, the school districts of Trenton and Princeton in NJ touch each other. The distance between them is zero miles. Yet the average SAT scores are 374 for math and 382 verbal in Trenton and 1227 in both for Princeton. Is there any other way to explain this except for racism and segregation? The Trenton school district is mostly black. The Princeton school district is mostly white.

    Can someone from Trenton move to Princeton? Only if he can afford the extremely high real estate prices in Princeton and very few can.

    All the talk about “diversity” in the US is BS. The communities are segregated according to what real estate someone can buy and this many time turns out to be a racial divide.

    • eee says:

      The first paragraph above should be:

      The usual anti-Israel hatred. Israel is a diverse place, much more diverse than the segregated US. In the US communities are segregated according to class and race by the real estate they can afford.

      • Mooser says:

        No ‘eee’ you got it right the first time: “they can but their children”

        I bet you got butted all the time when you were a kid. I hope your Dad didn’t catch anything.

    • eee says:

      In case anyone thinks this is an East Coast problem, check out the differences between the East Palo Alto (Ravenswood) school district and the Palo Alto school district. Touching districts but SO different.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      I don’t understand what you think you’re accomplishing by attacking the United States verbally, eee? Are you really hoping you can make most American Jews turn traitor on their home country?

      • Mooser says:

        I agree, “eee” the US is just awful. I just don’t know how you wonderful Israelis can bring yourselves to touch our filthy money.

      • eee says:

        I am not attacking the US. I am simply showing that the standards Israel is being judged by are unreasonable. Phil is judging Israel using standards he does not judge American Jews. Do you know what percentage of Princeton is Jewish? How about the Jews on the upper West Side. Do they send their kids to private schools or public schools mostly?

        In short, Phil is BASHING Israel while letting himself off the hook. Seems somewhat irrational.

    • edwin says:

      I look forward to a Palestinian prime minister – any day now I’m sure.

  20. Walid says:

    The US has segregated communities but Israel is a diverse place. Great skating.

    • Great skating.
      Liking mixing a double Salto with a “Grand ecart”!

    • eee says:


      Yes, Israel is more diverse than the US by a mile.
      link to brookings.edu

      On any conceivable parameter you can think of, Israel is more diverse and more integrated than the US.

      • Mooser says:

        Israel’s secret weapon; they are going to kill us with laughter.

        “eee” (if that is your real name) as you well know, in the US, we have in some places failed to live up to our laws and ideals.
        Israel doesn’t suffer from this at all. In Israel, those failures are the laws and ideals. And even Israel is having a hard time living down to them.
        But I have faith in my Israeli brethren, keep working at it, you’ll get there.

      • Citizen says:

        Well, yeah, eee, Israel’s jews come from the four corners of the world, so in that sense Israel is diverse. Anyone in the US who has the money to do so, has the full right to live anywhere, and travel anywhere. Israel? No soap. Also, the US has separation of religion and state.

  21. potsherd says:

    This sort of internal hasbara seems to be a current trend. Ynet has a piece from a New Zealander: link to ynetnews.com

    I have been here for much of the last decade and fear for the direction in which Israel is heading: Towards a society marred by virulent racism, intolerance and a social system that privileges wealth and power over social justice.

    This was not the vision Herzl or the other founding fathers of cultural and political Zionism imagined. My hope is that those who deign to speak in their name recommit in the 63rd year of the Israeli state to the reconstitution of the progressive elements of that vision and to the expunging of those that promote social division and intolerance.

    • Mooser says:

      “recommit in the 63rd year of the Israeli state to the reconstitution of the progressive elements of that vision and to the expunging of those that promote social division and intolerance.”

      Yeah, the way Witty and the rest speak derisively about “the left” and progressives lets me know this is going to happen, when pigs fly on kosher airlines, or something.

  22. Walid says:

    TGIA, watch your step with the French words if you don’t want to hear a mouthful from Ruth.

  23. Walid says:

    Brookings of course, eee, who else? It was disappointing there was no mention of all the Nobel prizes. I’m glad the US isn’t at all like Israel and it has nothing to learn from it. Tell me, eee, how is it that a country with so much genius, technology and every good about it has to resort to stealing land and water from its neighbours?

  24. rachel says:

    Merde alors! You missed me! You really missed me! My name spoken in vain 10 times! Wow!

  25. rachel says:

    rachel aka ruth. Lost my password. Waiting for Mossad to issue another one.

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