Rebbetzin Yehudis Golshevsky left the following comment on yesterday's post about the difference between living in Amercica versus Eretz Yisroel. She was specifically responding to some commenters who were challenging my friend's glowing description of the potential for spiritual growth in Israel.
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.
(Picture courtesy of sigma)
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