יום חמישי, מרץ 09, 2006

Should we be telling everyone to make Aliyah?

I have two siblings in the USA. We all moved to Israel together and they have since moved back. I'm not sure if I can say anything to them about coming back to Israel. And even if I can I'm not sure what I should say.

They both know all the reasons I could give. They've both heard and could probably teach both the religious take and the national take. They've heard our father talk about the difficulty of raising kids in the US today. They know the security situation isn't as bad as CNN makes it seem. What more could I say?

If I were to imagine their response it would be one of the average "American Jew" responses with statements of how now is a bad time or when we have x amount of money or once y finishes school or the community would fall apart if we were not in the keystone position we are in. And it's no lie. It is a bad time and there is no money and they are doing wonderful things within their respective communities. And people would miss them and y is still in school. All true.

So what do I say?

I met a fellow from LA who was here to check out possibilities for moving to Israel. I rode in to Jerusalem with him and we spoke while he was driving. He told me that the big issue is his five kids. He has five kids between the ages of 9 and 19. Ken yirbuh. He realized that moving as a teenage was hard and he wanted me to share some of my thoughts because I had moved here as a teen.

I talked to him about a few of the schools. I told him about some youth groups and support structures that exist. I told him some of the problems he could expect and tried to give him a real picture of what his kids would be dealing with by moving here when they are in high school. We reached Jerusalem, I gave him my email and we parted company. I never did hear from him and don't know where he is now. Among the things I tried to tell him was that moving here with his kids as teenagers was taking a risk. My calculation of the odds were that one out of his 5 kids would be messed up by the move. To what extent? Depends on the kid, depends on the rest of the family. But one in five for teenagers moving to Israel sounds about right to me. I talked it over with a few friends and they were even more emphatic about "Yup, one of his kids will be screwed up." Who knows? I've seen families who make the transition just fine.

A few years ago I came to the following truth. Kids who move here before a certain age will be fine. They'll be Israeli with American parents. That age is about 8-10. Adults who move here after a certain age will also be ok. They'll be Americans who have moved to Israel. That age is about 22. The interesting group are those who move here between the ages of 10 and 22. The best term I've found to describe them is Nisht a'hin, Nisht a'herr (Yiddish - Neither here nor there). Their cultural background (manners, music, style of dress) is American but the life they live (school, travel, food, friends, politics) is Israeli. Some chose one group over another and stick with that. Others will live with one foot in each world and take what they can from each. None of these are easy solutions. None of them make being a teenager and growing up any easier. It is doable and many people pull it off and are happy, well adjusted adults. But it's tough.

There are many Israelis who when I tell them I have siblings in Chutz La'aretz tell me "So convince them to move back home!" I got the same comment when I told people about the community in Sydney: "So why didn't you convince them all to move home?"

The question is do I tell someone who's kids are in that gap of 9 to 19 he should be moving to Israel? Is it really for everyone? Should I have turned to that fellow from LA and said "You can move here but you are rolling a dice as to which one of your kids will end up _________."?

My father claims that the chances of 1 in 5 are about the same if you raise your kids in LA. I don't know. I know what I've seen here and the kids that I've worked with here and the kid that I was. I was that 1. Do I tell people it'll all be just fine?

Hindsight 20/20, I'm very grateful to my parents for dragging me here. Having Hebrew as a spoken language allows me to daven and learn Torah in a way I believe is not possible without that. The more Torah I learn I see in so many ways how as a religious nation we are supposed to be here. Each time I go back to the US I am further strengthened in my idea that it's a lousy place to live and raise children simply by dint of the topics discussed around dinner tables even in frum Jewish homes. But what do I tell the business man from St. Louis who wants to move here with his 10 year old son and his 14 year old daughter?

To move kids when they are 11,12,14,15 is a real risk. How that stacks up against the risk of raising kids in LA or Chicago I don't know. How that stacks up against the benefit of having your kids speak to God during tefila rather than just "praying", I don't know.

I have two siblings in the USA. We all moved to Israel together and they have since moved back. I'm not sure if I can say anything to them about coming back to Israel. And even if I can, in a few years I'm not sure I should say it.


At 12:01 אחה״צ, Blogger Elizabeth said...

I don't know whether it is harder or easier to raise children in the U.S. or Israel, but I would think opportunities for work and school are better in the U.S.

The U.S. is for people who like to live in a diverse society. You really have to believe in plurality or you won't be happy here. If you detest being around different types of people, including people who are ethnically and religiously different from you, you would be miserable in the U.S. and maybe we wouldn't want you here either.

At 1:13 לפנה״צ, Blogger chavaleh said...

Wow, talk about hitting the nail on the head.

I like the term. Its much more positive then what I've been calling it - 'Anusim' - forced as kids to make aliyah against our will.

In retrospect? Yes, of course I'm glad I'm here. But I only came to that realization a few months ago, when I realized I actually had a choice about whether I wanted to continue living in Israel or not.

Would I recommend someone with teenagers to make aliyah? No, probably not. (Or if so, to start saving up now for the shrink.) Yes, it messes kids up. Yes, we will probably never be too clear about our identity. Yes, there are wonderful schools and organization here to help. But some of us still fall through the cracks.

If that guy ever gets back to you, feel free to give out my e-mail as well.

At 3:51 לפנה״צ, Blogger Ezzie said...

Well put. When I was in Israel, contemplating staying in Bar-Ilan, I was advised by many family friends and relatives to go back to the States, get a degree and get married there, save up for a few years, and get to Israel before any kids turn 10.

Seeing as how that's worked out so far, I realize they were right on the money.

At 7:51 אחה״צ, Blogger J-Turtle said...

Ezzie - are you planning on working in Israel? In Hebrew? After having done all you trainging in English? And after makeing lots of job connections in the US?

And out of all those people who told you that plan, how many of them are living where? I'd bet that they are (almost) all living in the US.

At 1:36 לפנה״צ, Anonymous אנונימי said...

with absolutely no relevance to what you've just written on aliya, check out www.pandora.com seems to be just the thing you'd enjoy.
Purim Sameyach.

At 11:09 אחה״צ, Blogger Ezzie said...

J-Turtle - they all live in Israel, actually. They advised me to do this when I was there...

My Ivrit is decent, or was while I was there; I'm not too concerned with picking it up when I move back. My wife is fluent. In the fields I would go into, there are plenty of jobs available (always) in Israel; the connections I either have or can safely presume to have in the future.


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