Even in other places where it describes someone whom others can easily fool, the concept of freier is not a cultural symbol like it is in Israel. Even the English word “sucker” doesn’t play as central a role. During her research, Bloch collected more than 1,000 articles that mention being a freier. In Haaretz alone, the word has appeared more than 1,000 times in the last decade.
“‘Don’t be a freier’ is practically the 11th commandment of the Israeli,” wrote Haaretz’s Benny Ziffer in 2006. How has such a great fear of being a freier developed in Israel, of all places? Bloch explains that this is due, among other reasons, to a desire to be free of the image of the Jew in exile. She says there are five attributes of Israeli character that come together to create the culture of “just don’t be a freier”: a particularly strong ego and sense of honor, avoidance of law and rules, individualism without responsibility, competition and machismo. There are some people, she adds, who are prepared to kill in order not to come out as freiers.
then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told students at a Ma’aleh Adumim school in 1998: “We are not freiers. We don’t give without receiving.”