Saturday, June 13, 2009

Creating a Community

As a part of my Universtiy studies, we have to learn how to conduct qualitative research and so friend and I conducted a focus group with Olim (immigrants) from English speaking countries that have been here for 3 years or more....we asked them what they think about their experience of community differs in the Diaspora to Israel and whether or not this impacts on their happiness here...
The answers we got were varied and interesting...

According to Literature on the subject, community can be defined as either territorial (e.g. a negihbourhood) or it can be relational (social groups/partnerships/people with shared common interest). Some people acknowledge the layers to community identity as including national and ethnic identity via common linkages in feelings of belonging.

All these concepts were echoed in the answers, but what I found most interesting was the support for the notion that Community is a social construct that wPe make for ourselves, it does not exist externally to us, we choose whether or not we create it's existance by actively participating or not.

A participant responded 'I am my Identity'. Another person pointed out that at the beginning there was a pressure to elarn Hebrew and 'fit in' with society, to assimilate to become 'Israeli' but as time passed by the image of the 'mythical desert man' otherwise known as the 'Israeli', faded and the need to prove yourself became irrelevant the longer that you stay...perhaps because there are so many different types of Israeli's because we are essentially an immigrant country that there is no set definition besides owing a Teudat Zehut (Identity card). You make yourself who you don't have to conform to anything, because there's nothing to conform to, besides your own perceptions of esoterical constructs.

When inside the Miasma of the 'Anglo' community, in Jerusalem, English may be the dominant language, you may feel kinship towards fellow like minded idealogically driven 'authentic' people, but there is not one shule, not one group that is formally organised that everyone belongs to like in the Diaspora. As you get to know the place you might start to recognise people on the street, so you feel greater control over your the end of the day though, while sitting in class doing a Masters in hebrew, you will be viewed as 'the English speaker'...even though your conversations are toatally in fluent high level Hebrew, because you have an accent.

Everyone was really happy here, which begs the labels really matter? Should we be so worried about 'integration' life gets busy and you start to wear crocs, you want to travel to India and you push in line at the post office because nothing can get done in this country without going to the Post office first...We have to ask ourselves...

The groups that we choose or do not choose to pe a part of to join and participate in or to leave aside. The people we choose to associate with and the place where we live...our community.
If we are supported, if we have friends and social networks, if you can say at the end of the day, I am happy...then surely this is what counts more towards a 'successful' Aliyah.


Blogger Dona Inselberg said...

I think any how you try and fit in you will always be "Australian" or "American" to Israelis so better enjoy who you are since they definitely will...

7:55 AM  

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