"It is the worst thing for an israeli to be, a freier in his own eyes and in the eyes of other Israelis."

--Tom Segev, Israeli journalist and historian

Freier is the Yiddish word for Sucker, but it goes much deeper than that.

I find it fascinating when two cultures have words with identical meanings but completely opposite definitions. This word is one of those. In America, a sucker is someone who buys a stereo from some dude in a parking lot; in Israel, a freier is someone who doesn't know about the guy selling stereos in the parking lot and buys his hardware in a store.

A sucker is someone to be laughed at; a freier is to be pitied. The whole concept of Israel was to create a place where Jews wouldn't be tricked or persecuted; a freier-free state. From an Israeli point of view the Jewish people have been freiers for 2000 years and they'll be damned if they're going to let it happen again.

The thing is, this is sometimes taken to extremes. Some think that obeying the law (particularly when no one is watching) makes you a freier - paying parking tickets, obeying traffic laws or paying taxes can be a freier's hallmark.

Source: an episode of This American Life called, appropriately, Suckers.
It's available to be listened to here: http://www.thislife.org/ra/222.ram

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