Before I made aliyah, I watched a rather depressing Israeli movie that taught me a huge amount about Israeli culture-- specifically, how not to be a fryer. At that point I probably thought that "fryer" referred to a small chicken, but no... "a fryer" is the person who gets naively used while more savvy people make "combinas" (a post about that some other time). The best English translation is "sucker," but I'm pretty sure the concept of a "fryer" also has to do with passivity and a kind of naive niceness-- with being taken for a ride rather than driving the getaway van. A fryer pays double price, has faith in the UN, and gives out unecessary information to strangers.
In the movie James' Journey to Jersualem, James is an African Christian sent on a pilgrimage to Israel by his village, but then arrested for illegal entry and strong-armed into working illegally for very little pay. As he loses his innocence and comes to understand Israeli culture, though, he realizes that he's a "fryer" for earning a pittance while his boss profits. He then starts his own cleaning business in his time off, exploiting his fellow illegal aliens and under-cutting his boss. It's not a movie for anyone who wants to maintain a starry-eyed view of the holy land, but useful viewing for anyone who actually wants to move here.
I understand the concept of a "fryer" better when I look at our two cats.
Zeus, being born in America, is a fryer. When we try to clip his claws, he sits in our lap with a long-suffering expression... but makes no effort to actually move. He fully trusts not only our good intentions but that, if we're punishing him, he has probably done something to deserve it. Similarly, if Zeus jumps on the table to sniff at some chicken and we yell at him, he'll immediately shrink back with a guilt-stricken expression and try to win back our approval.
Pixel, on the other hand, is thoroughly Israeli, the product of rigorous natural selection on the Israeli streets. Clipping Pixel's nails is an ordeal involving me, my husband, and several thick blankets. Even so, we emerge scratched and bitten, and Pixel (who is otherwise a very sweet cat) emerges with his back nails still intact. Pixel trusts us-- to a point-- and is grateful for our protectzia, but he'll watch out for himself, thank you. If we attempt to do something not in his self-interest, well, we'd better think again. If Pixel jumps on a table to sniff at some chicken and we yell at him, he'll grab a drumstick on his way down. No fryer, Pixel.
I basically have "fryer" tattooed on my forehead, but according to my husband's aunt, I compensate by having "marpekim"-- elbows!
I think Americans actually reward fryer-like behavior: we love the steady worker, the anonymous donor, the cop who splits his winning lottery ticket with the waitress. Israelis, on the other hand, frown on this kind of behavior-- or rather laugh at it, incredulously. What do you think? Would you rather be a fryer or not?
My husband and I (and our cat Zeus) made aliyah to northern Israel in April, 2008. In Israel, we adopted two street kittens who have proceeded to make up for kittenhoods of deprivation by growing remarkably fat and shiny. In October of 2011, we welcomed our first daughter, Nitsah. Moving to a new country demands both a sense of wonder and a sense of humor. In this blog, I'll try to share both! DISCLAIMER: I actually can't tell you how to be Israeli, because I'm still working on it myself. But at least we can muddle towards Israeli-ness together!