April 19, 2010
It seemed that before we knew it, we were sending them off to the airport-back to their lives of work, school and friends in America. It was so hard for me to let my children go. Even with all the advances in communication, we can’t be there when one of them just wants a hug, a dose of mothering when they are hurt or sick, or us to join them in a milestone celebration. We sacrifice the daily nachas of seeing our granddaughter grow. It’s painful not to be part of each others’ lives in that way. Thank G-d they have a good support system of family, friends and connections there. They are growing in the right directions and making us proud with their choices.
And I think they feel proud of our choice too. They see how much we love living here and thrive on the clarity and the kedusha that permeates life in Israel. For them, coming home means coming to the center of the universe. It means revisiting the place where so much growth happened in their young lives and memories are revived every time they so much as hop on a bus. We are of course disappointed that despite our passion, they choose not to live here. What happened? I think that except for “yeshiva couples,” Israel is not seen as a viable alternative to "getting on on with life" in America after learning here post high school.
I pray that at the right time, they will decide to come, but for now, we are grateful to Hashem (and our depleted frequent flyer accounts); for those precious couple of weeks over Pesach. We spent most of our days together and did not have many guests; the kids have few friends here now, anyway. A lot of our time was spent in Pesach cleaning and cooking marathons; thanks to everyone pitching in, we made it through with sanity and shalom in check.
Needless to say, we saw a lot of our grocery delivery man, Tvi. Tzvi is a quiet, wiry man who followed me home just about every other day before and during Pesach, pushing his hand truck loaded with boxes of more fresh Israel grown oranges, apples, lemons, eggplants, onions, garlic, carrots, lettuces, kholrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, fragrant herbs than you can imagine. Plus liters of Diet Coke, wine and water. And oh yes, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes! Tzvi often gives us a morsel of a vort as he walks out of our door after dropping off the groceries, and here’s one I’d especially like to share with you:
Pesach made us the Nation of Israel. Peasch is spelled with the letters: pay, sameach, het, which Tzvi said stands for “Protexia,” “Savlanut,” “Chutzpha” – these, he told us with a wink, make us Israeli.
His jest was funny because it has its truth and it made me wonder, am I an Israeli yet?
We do not have the born-and-bred-in-Israel type of Protexia, but we olim look out for each other. We share information and experience, give referrals and advice freely. We advertise for each other and look out for parnassa opportunities as if it was for our own child or brother. Unquestionably, an oleh of decades will willingly go to bat and even stick his neck out for newbies like us or any other oleh in a tight spot.
Savlanut comes simply because we have the merit to live in the Land of our national yearning. Being grateful for that miracle alone dwarfs any inconvenience, any obstacle. Even though the same problems arise here as everywhere else, our worries are less because the clarity is so much more.
However, I don’t think anyone would say I have chutzpah. I DO wait patiently in line and I sometimes cry if an Israeli talks to me with chutzpah (like my driving instructor did yesterday). In Alabama where I was raised, chutzpah was considered just plain old bad manners. But here, it is something different altogether. It is certainly blunt but it doesn’t have to be arrogant. If one can master the ability to deliver a dose of it honestly, and even charmingly-it is a much admired trait.
An Israeli driving instructor for instance, will talk to you with relentless bluntness because he wants to see you pass the exam. The taxi driver will ask you personal questions like how much is your rent and then tell you that you should rent in his neighborhood because it costs much less for the same space. When the kids run in line in front of me at the makolet (neighborhood grocery) the cashier may or may not give them musser (chastize them) and send them to the back of the line. But either way, the kids, as they master the art of chutzpah, will try it again.
I shy away from being “chutzpah-dik” because I see it as overstepping certain boundaries. I guess it is accepted and admired here because we are all family, and relatives push the boundaries because we are genuinely concerned about our family. Since every Jewish child is part of our family, Israelis feel it’s responsible to give their opinion just about anytime. The love comes through even if the message is tough.
If I want to be Israeli, according to Tzvi, then I’d better develop the art of chutzpah...so here goes.
Many, many yeshiva and seminary students have found their way to our Shabbos table in the past 3 years. As Pesach approaches and the end of their year looms, our discussions inevitably lead to what their plans are for the next year or two. It is wonderful that often they want to return for a year and can possibly see themselves building a life here. For others, returning or staying is not even on their radar screen. But besides spending a second year, they are all resigned to leaving, at least for now.
They leave behind a precious atmosphere of growth and clarity, a Land of great adventure, limitless spiritual possibility and unequaled academic opportunity. Beginning their adult life dedicated to building k’lal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael is beyond their realm of reality. Why?
The reason they all give is, “my parents.”
“My parents want me home,” -Of course, we all want our children near us.
“I need to finish school, get married, begin a career, save some money...then maybe I can come.” -By then the dream defers to the demands of the life they have already built.
“I really want to, but my friends are all leaving.” -It’s true, their friends do not stay, it isn’t the “thing” to do.
“I don’t see myself here at all.” This is the saddest thing for us to hear.
What is going on??? Parents, I know you want your kids to have the best possible future. I know you want them to have opportunities that you never did. I know you want them to to be challenged in positive ways and to grow into the incredible human beings you know they are...to fulfill and surpass your every dream for them --and for their children.
And I know you know the America in which we were raised in will never be the one they raise their children in. Even if it does get better financially, once the moral slippery slope begins in a society, it never, never rises. America and the world are morally bankrupt.
Life can be simple and pure here like no place else for the Jew. Children are raised in a life defined by Jewish values whether in the country, the suburb or the density of the city. Their neighbors may wear any kind of kippa-or none at all- or they could live in a building with Jewish friends from families just like theirs on every floor in every single apartment.
Living in a country where authentic Jewish values are the norm gives them a freedom children in America will never know. Your 5 year old can safely walk to to the makolet or take the 3 year old to the park, and you don’t have to hover over their every move. The 10 year old can bus across town with friends. We will watch out for them and maybe dispense a dose of musser if needed. This kind of independence naturally builds self esteem in children from an early age.
A family thrives on much less money here. Tuition and health bills are comparatively nonexistent. In most families both parents do not need to work full time, so mommy is there when a child comes home from school or is sick a day or two. We are not always running out to Target. Kids don’t get something new every week and don’t feel they need it because their friends aren’t getting either. Finding a school may be a challenge because there are so many choices, but again, there are so many choices.
We all know how difficult, dangerous or impossible aliya is for families with a broad age of children and established parnassa. So what can you do? Don’t perpetuate the cycle! Encourage your kids to think about beginning their young lives here. Support them if they desire to be here and help them to make it a reality.
As I see it, they need two things: #1 You to want them here. They love you, care what you think and want to make you proud. #2 A support system of friends. They have teachers and rabbis for guidance, and maybe some family, but they will need a social life. For things to change, parents must encourage and help them find schools and housing with friends. You help them there, why not here? For olim, college is free! They get rent subsidies, great health care, parks are safe, and there is good clean fun at 11 PM in the city.
Most of all, they are needed here. Really needed. Israel needs their middos, their minds, their strength, their vision. Their contribution to society is a foundation stone in the Land of their forefathers. The children they will bear validates the lives lost by millions of martyrs in the centuries of our longing for Eretz Yisrael.
The doors are open. Instead of diving into a materialistic society that gives little return on your and their investment, how about encouraging them to strengthen their OWN nation? We have responsibility as the parents of the next generation of builders. You can keep them near you, shepping daily nachas, or let your children go--and reap eternal reward.
There it is, my first attempt at chutzpah-If you don’t like what I have to say, it’s OK-but you know I love you, I mean well and want the best for you because you are my family.
May our children be the ones who finally tip the heavenly scales in our favor, and bring us all home soon.
Renee And David
P.S. In spite of the chutzpah of my driving instructor, or maybe because of it, I am now the proud bearer of an official Israel Drivers License.