Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Difference Between Life in Israel vs. the Five Towns (UPDATED)

A friend of mine who recently made aliya to Ramat Beit Shemesh recently commented to me how different life in Eretz Yisroel is from what life in his old (and my current) neighborhood is like. I asked him to explain what he meant more specifically and here is what he said:

As far as the community being different Dixie - hmmmmmm. I'll give you an example:

When I walk by the batei midrashim in the mornings, there are tons of Yidden who are devoting their entire mornings to learning. People who were "modern" in the States, are here learning until 1:00 and then going to work. This alone is unique, and changes people completely. And that is just the mornings!

The batei midrashim are thriving at night, B"H. There is so much learning going on, it's so geshmak. When I walk to Shul in the mornings, you can see ladies at the bus stops, on mirpesets, davening. Granted, there are places where it's not like this, but it's wonderful.

I've found people to be much more serious about their learning, families, yahadus, tefillah. Shabbos table conversations seem to focus on kedushas eretz yisroel, how to help yidden here, Torah ... I'd say, to sum it up, people are "in the zone".

And with respect to the children, I feel there is a beautiful innocence here with the children - it may have to do with the fact that it seems Mothers here spend alot more time with the kinder. You don't see housekeepers with kids here - you see mothers with kinder, B"H.

Also, there doesn't seem to be as much gashmius - no gameboys or PSPs or fancy clothes etc... It is much more in the way of pashtus (simplcity), and that's why I mentioned [that children's favorite pastime here is playing] marbles, as an example.

I'm new here. Perhaps the contrast just stands out to me now, and will fade. IY"H, I Hope not!

Update 12:30 PM: B"H, we have a diamond in Woodmere - Rebbe pushes us all to new heights. But I'm finding here that watching the Avodas H of others is very motivating. Woodmere has this too, as does Far Rockaway and probably numerous other places in the US, but this is Eretz Yisroel, and so many yidden are just so plugged in.

Just a few examples, the number of women that flock to Rebbetzin Kanievsky just to be around her light. Friends of mine here who take days to go to kevarim up north just to daven and do hisbodedus. Friends who go to various places to toivel in maayanim. Yidden going to kever Rachel and chevron erev rosh chodesh. It's Kadosh Dixie - it just seeps in.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of Ramat Beit Shemesh courtesy of Panoramio)

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Anonymous said...

The Emerald city comes to mind here.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Half Empty, k'shmo kein hu.

Anonymous said...

So you think the emerald glasses are not effecting the reality of the situation of the Americans who make aliyah and the amount of them that return after there mandatory 3 years(Nefesh Bnefesh). This is of course it is not everyone. But I think being freinds with some very disenchanted children of parents who made Aliyah without thinking of the long term ramifications and the culture clash there is a need for some realism and address of the difference and not just the Idealistic view and it will all work out.I heard from a Posek Hador who has grandchildren in Isreal and I quote "there is no Chinuch there".Again I am not saying Isreal is bad I do not wish to be counted among the Meraglim,but these blanket its wonderful statement really get me when it fails to grasp the real situation.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Listen, making aliya is not a simple matter. It should only be taken on when children are either young enough to adapt or are fully on board and when parnasa is accounted for before leaving. The partciular oleh here is a great example of doing it the smart way. They did not go through nefesh b'nefesh since they have made "probationary aliya" for a temporary time. The point is that yes, it has to be done in a smart way and with a lot of planning, but looking at the glass only half empty is just as cockeyed and unrealistic as an unplanned aliya without one's eyes open.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

While it's true that not all olim from the States succeed here, part of that has to do with a basic unwillingness or inability to adapt to the realities of life here.
I'm not only talking about the standard of living, but rather about a whole mindset. And as for "no chinuch," perhaps part of this is because there's no basketball. I don't mean that exactly, but that American kids who are already used to greater freedom and "kid-ness" in their chinuch may very well have a serious problem when they come to Israel and enter the chareidi chinuch system. Plenty of American olim go crazy over the fact that gym doesn't exist, that the learning here for the children is more demanding. Of course, it depends on the school. Not everyone can adapt to a Yerushalmi-style chinuch.
On the other hand, many American olim specifically seek out a Yerushalmi-style education for their children because they don't want their kids in schools where unsavory influences are tolerated.

Generally, I've found that the kids who do best have parents that come knowing that they will have to change and who look forward to the prospect. Yes, your daughter's Beis Yaakov here will call you to the carpet if you decide to go out in a denim skirt, no matter what the length or breadth. It will not be comfortable. A mother who balks at making a change like that is generally going to find that her children don't adjust well either.

When I was in seminary, I read a story by Dovid Zaritzky about the yishuv hayashan called "Dmut shel Yerushalmi" in the volume "B'tzeil Tzach." In it, he very poetically described the process of the newcomer to the yishuv gradually letting go of his "yekishkeit" "litvishkeit" etc. to embrace the overarching identity of "Yerushalmi," with all that it entails. Of course, we're not talking about that exactly here, but it had a profound influence on me. (Ramat Beit Shemesh not exactly being Meah Shearim, except for those part of it that are. But American olim don't usually move there.)

Rebbe Nachman says that a person who wants to be an "Ish Chayil" has to go to Eretz Yisroel. One meaning of being an "Ish Chayil" is that one goes "m'chayil el chayil"--you have to be spiritually intrepid, be willing to put yourself on the line a little. It is not always comfortable here, but it is worthwhile--a million times over.

Of course, I came here fairly young, married here, am raising my family here, and never go back to the States. Our kids know that we find America to be a negative environment for us; that's why we're here. There are good people and good communities all over America--I know this from experience. But the bnei aliyah in them know that Eretz Yisroel could give them something that they cannot get at home. For many reasons, they stay. My only sibling is in outreach in the States--she and her husband are doing what they need to for klal yisroel--and I respect that. Not everyone can come right now. But I do believe that everyone should at least want to come, even if the "yishuv" is not perfect. Progress, not perfection.