Why Israelis Care Less about Prestige Than Americans

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.

Read more at Forge

More about: Education, Israeli society


Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security