And what's highly amusing (yet also kind of sad, if you think about it) is that whenever they behave in a way that others consider exceptionally good, the Israelis are dumbfounded and can't wrap their mind around the fact that they did anything special.
They always insist that they were just going by instinct and refuse to accept the fact that others might not respond as generously.
The Pintele Yid Sparkling in India
And the tourist hostel hosted other such groups from different countries.
Suddenly, one of the Israeli girls cried out, "My passport is gone! And so is all my money!" After some investigation and a search, both she and her fellow Israelis concluded that her stuff had been stolen.
As she was literally in tears, all the Israelis automatically got together and pooled whatever money they could afford to donate so that she could get to an Israeli consulate and get a new passport, and so on.
Two members of a British group who witnessed the episode approached Asaf and said something like, "You guys are incredible."
Frowning, Asaf said, "Why?"
The British blokes explained, "Because we never would've done it. We never would've pooled our money together like that."
Dumbfounded, Asaf said, "But why not? How else would she manage? How could you not help her?"
They just shook their heads.
"Really?" said Asaf. "But how could you not?"
"We would've felt really bad for her and all that," they explained. "We would've sympathized. But pool our money like that? No way. It's unfortunate, but it's her problem, not ours."
As Asaf finished his story, he looked at us and said, "Do you think that's true? Do you think they really wouldn't have done that? None of us thought about it twice. It just came naturally. Why wouldn't they help her like that? And how could they not?"
Even after all that time, Asaf still seemed flabbergasted by the contrast in attitude and didn't know what to make of it. After all, it went against all his secular humanist indoctrination.
Asaf had no clue that he and his fellow Israeli wanderers actually possess a very strong pintele Yid -- a Jewish spark. They clearly have great souls that even cloaked under the klippah of State-induced secularism and Indian tumah, still managed to be expressed beautifully when faced with the opportunity.
(This is one reason why Tehillim and other Torah sources compare the Jewish people to olives, that when squeezed, express their highest and richest qualities as a golden flavorful oil rich with special properties. When Asaf and his fellow Israelis were "squeezed," the beautiful oil flowed out.)
The Pintele Yid Sparkling in Bulgaria
(And no, I did not like this at all.)
And interestingly, the Bulgarians (taxi drivers, merchants, etc) kept trying to overcharge them, but when my son and his friends protested against the price-raising, the Bulgarians said, "But Israelis have lots of money! You guys are very smart, so you must have lots of money!"
When my son and his friends tried to explain the truth about the Israeli economy and the vast majority of Israeli finances, the Bulgarians just laughed at them and said, "No, we know the truth! Don't try fooling us! You Israelis have lots of money!"
That's so weird, right? Since when do Israelis have lots of money? And even if they do, why overcharge them on purpose?
Well, it's probably a variation on the "Jews-are-cunning-Jews-are-rich-bloodsuckers" theme.
Also, no matter how hard my son tried to pretend that he was a different nationality (he tried posing as an American and also as an Arab, being that he can speak English well and Arabic a bit but with a good accent), yet the Bulgarians were never fooled and just laughed and told him, "We know you're Israeli!"
(It must be my son's beautiful Jewish chen shining through... ;)
Anyway, at the Bulgarian airport to fly back to Israel, another trio of young Israelis arrived with too much baggage due to having bought a foldable kayak and stuff.
Upon joining the Israeli crowd, they just asked who had extra room in their suitcases to help them get their stuff back to Israel without paying overweight.
My son and his friends immediately volunteered and the sorting was done.
The punchline is that this Israeli trio bought too much stuff KNOWING that they could count on their fellow Israelis to help them out before boarding!
They didn't bother trying to plan or arrange for assistance beforehand because they were so sure that their compatriots would lend them a hand (or a suitcase, as the case may be).
Also, the trust is interesting because once they all arrive in Israeli, it meant that they needed to trust my son and his friends to open their suitcases and get all the stuff back to the rightful owners before heading home.
Furthermore, no one on either side took into account the inconvenience of opening the suitcases, arranging the stuff inside, struggling to close it, and then repeating this process again back in Israel. My son and his friends were happy to do it and the trio was happy and grateful that they did it, knowing that they would've done the same had situations been reversed.
Sparkles: The Best Weapon We Have
But there is a certain amount of trust, generosity of spirit, and good will that just can't be denied, and that Israeli Jews themselves don't appreciate as special or exceptional.
(Just as another popular example: Look at how both frum and secular Jews travel around and assume -- correctly -- that if they get stuck in some way, they can just contact the local Chabad, no problem.)
I realize that, particularly with the frum publications, there is suffocating emphasis on our very real flaws. Frum Jews are some of the most self-critical people you'll ever meet.
But really, the best way to conquer our negative qualities is by planting and strengthening our good qualities.
And the only way to fight darkness is with LIGHT.
Yishtabach Shemo, despite all our foibles, failings, confusion, and weariness, Hashem's Light still shines through our neshamahs.
There is None like You, O Yisrael; Ein K'amcha Yisrael
The Stunning Greatness of a Regular Jew: Leah
Despite All the Grumbles, There's No Place like Home