Values, education and the ‘Sabra syndrome’

The ‘Sabra’, a fruit often misconceived as a native Israeli plant, is spiky on the outside but with a soft sweet center. This has, over the years become overused and abused as the definitive description of a native born Israeli, synonymous with a grossly inflated evaluation of their own self-importance, bad and inappropriate behavior, Israeli style – what I call ‘the Sabra syndrome’.

Today we are witnessing the results of this ‘Sabra syndrome’ like a proliferating virus within our society and without.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a judgement more like an observation.

There are many preconceptions about Israelis among non-Jews around the world. In some cases, they feed the flames of the myth of the Israeli as a Solomon, Samson, Moses or Ben Hur type hero – all-powerful, dealing out the Wrath of God to all and sundry. Among others, just the words ‘Mossad’ or ‘Israeli soldier’ conjure-up an image synonymous with invincibility and intelligence but at the same time compassionate and just. The ‘Sabra syndrome in all its glory.

The ever-suffering, poor hard done-by, perpetual victim of prejudice and bigotry is another platform frequently used by Diaspora Jews and Israelis alike. These images of ‘what is a Jew’ rely on the ‘Sabra syndrome’ to mollify the abrasive effect that many encounters with Israelis in particular, result in.

Our International relations are at an all-time ebb and some of the fundamental concepts that ought to bond a society together, that being mutual respect and values have been dissipated to an almost non-existent level.

This can be seen in the diplomatic and cultural relationships with many other countries, especially the US. Israel’s failure to combat growing Antisemitism, economic and academic boycott, Isis and the BDS, seem to reflect how the ‘Sabra syndrome’ has been so overused and abused that if it did have any credibility in the past, that has now been exhausted.

Internally, the most recent side effect of the ‘Sabra syndrome’ is reflected in the appalling results from the Program for International Student Assessment test (PISA). In an article last week in ‘Haaretz’, written by Prof. Dan Ben-David, it is blatantly clear that our educational standards have plummeted, resulting in unprepared and misguided graduates. This is probably (almost certainly) due to a combination of badly trained and ill-prepared teachers who have earned a flagrant disrespect throughout Israeli society from both pupils and parents alike.

Today, one of Israel’s greatest strengths is our dominance in the fields of Hi-Tech, electronics, IT development and technical know-how. We lose this footing and we will revert to being the archetypal image of the medieval ‘Jew’. The question needs to be asked: Where is the next generation coming from?

Educating our children in math, arts, science and language is the foundation and cornerstone of our survival.

Our priorities must be focused on our children, and, our children need and deserve to get all the tools to allow them to flourish.

We have to lose the attitude! Forget the ‘Sabra syndrome’ which has inundated and infected our society. It is vital that the teachers regain their status and, in order to make that happen, the new generation of teachers must be taught better, so they can earn and demand the respect that should be their due.

Our society must undergo a systems re-calibration (a do-over if you will).

Globalization has neither the time nor the place for the ‘Sabra syndrome’ any more.

About the Author
Howard Burns is 60 years old and married with 2 grown up children. He made Aliya at the age of 22 from England. He is a personal coach and language trainer for executives in companies in Israel and all over the world, and also works with government and municipal executives. He runs seminars in cultural diversity and provides training courses to international companies.