On Saturday evening I published a blog titled “Why can’t the Anglos learn to speak?” in which I pondered why many English speakers in Israel, even those who learn Hebrew grammar and vocabulary, make very little effort to imitate the accent.
I could say that I was making an innocent and reasonable observation and had no idea that the blog would garner the kind of responses that it did, but that would be untrue. I wrote and published the piece knowing that it would cause readers to bay at the moon.
As a rule, I don’t read talkbacks, but when they started piling up I skimmed a few and was not at all surprised by a) the lack of reading comprehension skills exhibited by posters and b) the tone of sheer vitriol in the majority of the responses.
You could argue that since the Anglo community in Israel is never as happy as when it’s outraged, I made a lot of people very happy. But I am curious as to why the Anglos in general are so quick to the draw – do they feel so vulnerable that any criticism is perceived as an attack?
I could understand the sound and the fury if I’d written arguing, say, in favor of legislation that would forbid anyone with a poor accent from taking the podium at a public event. But while my basic point (many Anglos speak Hebrew with horrible accents) went pretty much undisputed, readers seemed convinced that I’d been mean, equating pointing out a failing with meanness. One woman opined that I should be fired.
Why are their nerves so raw? I can’t speak to the situation of Jews in the UK or Australia, but North American Jews, on the whole, enjoy a level of safety and prosperity that has seldom been equaled in Jewish history. Does Israeli Anglos’ itchy trigger finger come from childhood indoctrination about Jewish victimhood? If so, it’s very sad that the decision to make aliya and the privilege to do so from choice rather than necessity leads to a continuation of that sense of victimization, rather than empowerment.
The Anglo community in Israel suffers from a collective inferiority complex, and it should get over it. We have more important things to deal with.
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Editor’s note: A response to this piece can be found here.