A slight change in topic form the past few blogs, but I have been thinking lately about the differences in culture between America and Israel. While in so many ways Israel is a very westernized country there are still so many things about being here that differ so much from what I am used to back in the states.
The first and most evident is the idea of time and schedule. Here time is very fluid, things change and being on time isn’t something that is emphasized. Being super punctual, let alone early, is not something that happens very frequently from what I have gathered over the past month or so that I have been living here. I have always been one of those people who leaves more early than I need to and I like to be at least fifteen minutes early for almost everything like work and classes. I find that doing that here is getting increasingly more difficult. To give an example I will talk about my classes for a second. This campus is very small and it takes me no more than a minute to walk to the classroom from my dorm room. I left my room ten minutes early the first few days of class and I was the only one in the classroom, including the professor (and that’s my American professors, the Israeli ones are later than all of the students). This seemed to be the norm amongst the student body that are here for the semester. Over the past few months we have all seemed to become accustom to this whole “middle eastern time” thing. Now when I sit down in class and look at my watch it is just at the time class is supposed to start and only half of the class (if that) is there. We also never leave on time for our field studies and our professors make a habit of telling us we will be leaving at a certain time expecting to leave at least fifteen minutes later. It is a strange phenomena, but I am rather growing to like it. The whole culture is so much more laid back and less on edge. It is such a difference form the up tight, go go go, culture in the states. It is beginning to seem that it will be hard to transition back to that lifestyle that I was so used to living at home, especially being that I live in the LA area.
Other than time there is also a vast difference in the orientation of people with their families. Family is such a huge deal here. In ways I think they have it more right here than we do in our world. Family is the unit you go to for help. Family is on what you rely. Family is who you are. They help each other out. It, in ways, breaks my heart that we have somehow missed this in our culture. This is how it was Biblically. We are meant to have those people on whom to rely in our lives.
One last thing, while not so much an aspect of cultural differences, but rather a change in thinking. This semester of being in this place and with these people has already taught me a lot about myself and is continuing to stretch me in so many ways. Learning to let go of a lot of images and preconceived notions is such a freeing thing and I am very grateful for the opportunity to grow while I am here. This semester is beginning to seem to be characterized by growth not only spiritually but mentally and emotionally as well. God is working in great ways here, not only in me, but through all of us studying here as a group. I pray that He continues to do so for the rest of the semester and for the rest of our lives. God is so good.