“Well, that’s Israel for You!”

Very often we hear people recount certain events and punctuate the end of their sentences with “Only in Israel!” At times, that phrase means that the special event or moment that was witnessed or experienced is unique to Israel.

For example, when seeing buses with banners across the front screaming “Happy Chanuka” or signs on those buses reminding people of the Biblical requirement to stand up for the elderly, then, indeed, the phrase “Only in Israel” is invoked.

At other times, it is said in a derisive fashion. For example, not that long ago I witnessed a woman walk up to a young mother in the park and give her a lecture on how she was not feeding her child the right way, in this woman’s opinion. As soon as the woman walked away, the young mother muttered under her breath (but loud enough for me to hear) “Only in Israel,” but said with disdain.

I understand both of those comments and in many cases the comment is warranted.

However, there is another comment that is made all too often…an insidious comment that is actually very insulting to the country and its residents. Something may go wrong for a visitor: for example, the car rental company messes up a reservation. Or an article of clothing just recently purchased begins to unravel at the seam; the stop lights at an intersection stop working and on and on. All situations that are indeed NOT unique to Israel and can and DO happen in most countries. Yet, the response I hear so often (and very often from visitors), “Well, that’s Israel for you!”

No, that isn’t Israel for you. That is part of everyday life! These very same things could occur in Brazil, Nepal or in New Zealand. It is not unique to Israel that something doesn’t work or that something goes bad/wrong.

And it is highly offensive when residents or tourists lay the blame at the doorstep of Israel when something doesn’t go right for them. Needless to say, there are indeed things that go wrong that ARE uniquely Israel. But when people choose to cast aspersions on the country and make the leap from  a negative experience to blaming it on being uniquely Israel, then that is not only offensive, it is doing what the spies did upon entering the Land of Israel: speaking Lashon Hara against the Land and its people. The spies casting aspersions on and speaking Lashon Hara about the Land of Israel has haunted us for centuries

While many people are meticulous to not speak Lashon Hara about their fellow man, we must also remember that speaking Lashon Hara against the country is anathema to Hashem. He made that quite clear in His response to the actions of the spies.

A friend of mine, a Rav in Ginot Shomron (Rav Sidney Gold) remarked once to a group of visitors to Israel:  “When you go back to the States, you need to decide if you want to be part of the ten or part of the two.” His intention? Do you want to speak poorly and find the negative in the country as did TEN of the spies or do you wish to see the good as did TWO of the spies.

The choice is in your hands–and in your eyes!

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.