Why Israelis Care Less about Prestige Than Americans

Sept. 29 2022

In a casual conversation with two young Americans in Tel Aviv about the pros and cons of moving to Israel, one told Andrew Jacobson that he could never do it because his degree from Columbia University “doesn’t mean anything here.” Jacobson believes his interlocutor hit on something important about Israeli society:

It’s true that a Columbia degree doesn’t carry the same prestige points or brand signaling here [in Israel]. Most people haven’t a clue about [the university’s] acceptance rate or perceived exclusivity. To be clear, the degree is valuable for what you actually learned: the knowledge, skills, and “education” part of “higher education.” But not the brand name.

All this got me thinking: prestige—the social prestige from association with Brand X or Club Y—seems to exist less in Israel. Nobody seems to care. More than that, many Israelis resent it. I want to understand why.

Jacobson recalls an invariable pattern he encountered while working as a consultant, visiting different Israeli firms and asking their managers to talk about themselves:

We would ask [the managers] to explain their professional experience and credentials, how many years they had been at the company, etc. Without exception, the first thing each member of management would say is the name of his or her marital partner, how many children they have, and where they live. For instance: “I am married to Yifat. We live in Hadera, and have three beautiful children.” Sometimes they would say [the children’s] names. But only then, after providing bigger context of Things That Actually Mattered to them, would they continue to list their PhDs from Hebrew University.

This isn’t to say that they thought their job was not important, but that there were things that mattered more: . . . deep, unchosen identities—people, religion, family, maybe nationality, to name a few—[that] remain at the center in Israeli life.

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Read more at Forge

More about: Education, Israeli society

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship