Being a Stranger

Shalom there,

quite a while ago, when DoppelpassSchmetterlingsfrau said farewell to her blog’s readers, and when I read that last article about how even after years she still felt like a stranger in Israel and, ultimately, returned back home to Germany feeling at home at last, I had a deep look into my own feelings in Israel and just couldn’t help but assume  something terrible must have happened to her to make her feel that unwelcome. After all, her conclusion was something like when you lived in a foreign country, for any given time, either you accept that you will never truly belong there, or you face that you eventually have to move back home. Strange enough this seemed to be the typical argumentation anti-immigration, only voiced by a (former) migrant.

Perhaps my own experience of very quickly feeling somehow Israeli-ish doesn’t count, for it was just too short, but then there are people like Lila or Beer7 who have been living in Israel long enough to raise their family there and, no matter how hard I try, I could never read a single line suggesting that they were anything but happy with their decision. So the topic kept me thinking. And of course this is the direct track to Middle Europe‘s – existing or constructed – migration problem. Migration, of course, in both directions, as in Europeans emigrating from their countries of origin, as well als people immigrating into Middle Europe. Where, according to Schmetterlingsfrau’s conclusions, integration of migrants could never be achieved.

I do belong to those people who feel Middle Europe is too small for them for one reason of another. Just recently I had a discussion with A., a friend in Vienna who, very like Schmetterlingsfrau, suggested I’d eventually return to Middle Europe because of being too blue-eyed and exclusively belonging here anyway so I better stayed in the first place. Of course I heavily disagreed. But the remark got me thinking even more heavily.

The longer I considered Schmetterlingsfrau’s words, the more sense they did make to me, in the end. There is another part in her article, besides “go back home!“. There’s that part telling you “you’ll never become 100% Israeli / whatever”. Perhaps this is the key! Not dismissing one’s identity of origin even if living in another country for years and decades. Becoming something like 50% Austrian and 50% Israeli. After all one’s cultural identity of origin does heavily shape a person. Why deny it? With my work in Israel, acting as a bridge between Austria and Israel, this came to me very naturally and never appeared to be special. Just like Lila’s and Beer7’s way of keeping contact with Germany by means of their blogs. But if I take a look around I see I was wrong. How many people have been migrating and thinking they leave it all behind? And how many of them have eventually despaired and returned to their country of origin’s identity altogether?

If you have a look around in Austria’s migrant’s families pre ~1990 this can be pretty clearly seen. Austria, as the one country in the very heard of Europe, does have a very long tradition of immigration. Just have a look at the names of people. Vranitzky isn’t exactly German-sounding after all. However Austrian migrant families have managed to integrate into Austrian society, whilst what today’s so-called migration politic is all about is not about integration but about assimilation, even though they might call it integration. About becoming 100% Austrian / German / whatever, which just won’t ever possibly work. You can’t leave behind the best part of your life, just because of taking on another citizenship. But you can become a part of both societies and cultures. You can be Austrian and Israeli or German and Turkish at one time.

And if you’d ask me there’s nothing more fun for a kid then roaming a schoolmate’s Turkish-Austrian birthday party with his mother cooking all those delicious Turkish stuff with random Austrian mainstream music in the background in a house that is … well, just 50/50.






  1. Shalom Sweetheart!

    Well, you know me and my oppinion on migration, I am a migrant myself (how strange that might sound, because we speak kinda the same language ^^) and I can somehow comprehend Schmetterlingfrau’s dilemma. ‘though I’m living here in Austria for a longer time than I have lived in Germany, Germany is the yountry of my roots, my upbringing. But somehow I am not 100% German anymore but neither 100% Austrian and I will never be, I am too proud being German by origin :D. I guess I am something of a mixture between those two countries and a lot of other influences. So I guess somehow I am just an EARTHLING 😉

    I guess you can never blend in a 100% in another culture, might as you try, somehow your origins will always show, but it is not a bad thing.
    What is bad is this Ghetto-making.

    I think it is important for any migrant in any country to be willing to learn the new language and the laws (as far as you need them to live untroubled) but you can stick to your believes and ways of lifestyle as long as you offend nobody else in your surroundings….


  2. That’s really interesting – I have no contact to Schmetterlingsfrau and had no idea she left. I do remember that she attacked me for not becoming Jewish and thus keeping myself different (she said I’d never be accepted here – but I am). My answer was that I’m different anyway and an exterior act won’t change that. In my case, a conversion from religious conviction is out of the question, and convenience conversion is something I’d never do.

    My children are no Halachic Jews, but they are Israelis and from my experience, that’s enough. In the US, they’d be counted as paternal Jews. If they want to make giyur, they can do so easily (via Nativ in the army). All this has never bothered us, and except for Schmetterlingsfrau, nobody has ever attacked or criticized me for it.

    Yes, I feel completely happy here and I’m still here and I’ll stay. And so are my German, Danish, Scottish and Dutch friends who came here to stay and integrated the secular way, just the way I did. Israel is colorful enough to integrate me, and I feel that by working and raising my children here, I contribute. And that’s important. I seem to remember that Schmetterlingsfrau neither worked nor had children – and that must have made it very difficult to integrate, because work and children are the two best bridges into a new society. Ruth from Beer7 is better equipped to answer what helped in her case – work and children or her conversion (which was a conversion from conviction and not for convenience).

    But it’s also a personality thing. I admit that I felt a stranger, different and alien all my life. I felt like that in Germany, at school, at University, all my life. I never fit in and I don’t expect to fit into larger groups. That must have made it easy for me to make the switch.

    I hope Schmetterlingsfrau is happy now.

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