October 23, 2017

Israel the Extrovert

A few weeks ago I read an article about the new ‘Cadenza’project in Jerusalem and realized how perfect Israel is for such an endeavor. 

A concrete encased electric piano is placed on a busy thoroughfare of Ben Yehuda Street. Here, people rush on and off the light rail, head to the office and at night, to bars and nightlife.

Anyone is invited to sit down and play. And as Israelis are not exactly introverted, this has become an attraction. Not only do people play, strangers gather to sing. This is not surprising in a country where people are informal and often (for the good and the bad) treat each other as family members.

After watching a few Cadenza videos I felt it was time to compare outgoing Israelis to the basic introverted qualities as presented by Susan Cain in her book "Quiet." 

Let’s see how Israelis fare:

Introverts prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.
Like migrating birds, Israelis are most often found in thick flocks. Their conversations are animated, their gesticulations fierce. 

They do everything together and in crowds. Even activities that one imagines are for quiet reflection attract numbers. Bird watching, spring flower appreciating, hiking and beach combing attract loud animated hordes.

People describe introverts as ‘soft spoken’ or ‘mellow.’
Not around here. Even the sound of Hebrew negates this statement. Perhaps it’s the raspy  ‘kh’ heard in words like chaver, chametz and Chanukah. This jarring sound is made far down in the throat by the uvula, which is the same place a snore emanates from.  

But if you’re of Yemen origin, you’ll make another sound that’s so unmellow, it has a special linguist tag - ever met a voiced pharyngeal fricative? You’ll hear it in Arabic and in Hebrew when a Temani says the letter ‘ayin’ in Ivrit (the word for the Hebrew language). 

Here in the middle east, simply buying agvaniot (tomatoes) and chasa (lettuce) can involve a fricative, turbulent and raspy discussion. 

Introverts dislike conflict.
This is the Middle East. Need I say more?

Introverts are not big risk takers.
If there is anything that involves high heights, sheer cliffs, murky depths and daring, Israelis are first in line. Extreme sports? Israelis salivate over cliff diving, big wave surfing, zorbing, white water rafting, bungee jumping and parachuting.

Was this desire ingrained in Israelis after serving in the army or is it just part of belonging to an extroverted nation? 

If you ever want a popular beach for swimming, simply look for the DO NOT SWIM sign. There may no lifeguards there, but this is where our extrovert Israelis hang.

The introvert enjoys solitude.
As you can see from the success of the Cadenza, solitude is the last thing on the average Israeli mind. Unlike an introvert, Israelis actually search out others. Be it on Ben Yehuda Street playing to a crowd or trekking in the Himalayas, Israelis like to be part of a scene together. 

Like to barbecue in nature? So do millions of Israelis on Yom Ha’atzmaut as they squish into the same park.

As they desire to be the center of attention, solitude is not on the Israeli mind. Even Israeli kids love performing in front of crowds. It’s the culture.

Craving solitude, I’ve hiked deep into the middle of the desert only to find myself at a campsite swarming with hundreds of electrified school kids, blaring music and microphones.

I’ve biked off road into pastoral fields and verdant valleys only to be overtaken by a flock of dune buggies driven by thrill-seeking city folk who just love group activities.

Welcome to Israel.  This is what makes the place tick with such a fricative high pulse.