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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Have we really become that Israeli?

When we lived in the US I recall the pile of forms that would arrive home whenever the kids would be going on a class trip off of school grounds.  It might only be a short bus trip to a local museum or a visit to the old age home to cheer up the residents.  The packet of paper for such outings included detailed itineraries, permission slip, liability release forms, emergency contact information forms, etc. 

An overnight trip would (at a minimum) include all sorts of medical release forms (allowing someone else to make medical decisions in an emergency if we couldn't be reached), plus the name of the place(s) they would be staying and the contact information for all the adult chaperones.

I mention this because my daughter went on her 'Tiyul Sh'nati (annual class trip) this week. 

Some time ago I may have signed something giving her permission to go... but I don't really recall.  If so, it was a forgettable one-page thing. 

When I was helping her stuff her backpack with clothes and other essentials, I asked her where the trip was going and she didn't really know.  And I didn't give it a second thought.

When I kissed her good-bye in the morning I asked her to make sure she had her cell phone with her and told her to have a good time.

When she called that evening to say good night, I asked her if she was having fun (she was) but forgot to ask her where she was.  And again, I was totally OK with that.

The next day she phoned me from a cable car at Rosh Hanikra (on the Lebanese border) squealing with delight at having spotted one of the naval Boats my company designs and manufactures for the IDF, patrolling the coastal waters between Israel and Lebanon.  I was proud that she had recognized the boat and pleased she was getting to see the beautiful caves and grottoes at Rosh Hanikra... but again, I didn't have a moment's pause over the fact that she had turned up in a totally unexpected place on an enemy border.  She was having fun with her class and that was totally OK with me.

Last night she came home full of stories about her fabulous trip... but we weren't home.  Zahava and I were out with friends when she called to say she was back.  Of course she wanted to start telling me stories about all the places they had seen, but we were in a Jerusalem pub listening to the daughter of a friend perform a nice Carlebach repertoire.  So I whispered for her to get some sleep and told her that she could tell us all about it in the morning.

When I hung up the phone Zahava turned to me and casually whispered, "Oh, is Ariella home?  Good.".  And we both promptly went back to enjoying the performance.

Have we really become such laid-back Israeli parents?!

Posted by David Bogner on May 29, 2008 | Permalink

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Love it! And right there with you, David! Getting ready to send the kids to camp in the states for the summer and am putting off filling out and signing the PACKET of forms they sent me! Here? Don't even know they've gone on a trip sometimes. We HAVE become THAT Israeli! Just love it!
smile :) Sarah B

Posted by: Sarah Beth | May 29, 2008 1:29:03 PM

As someone who has been schlepping packets of camp forms around for the past few weeks - all due by June first or PENALTIES will be applied - I think the answer is a resounding YES. And you should enjoy it! But the real question is...if Ariella was not yet back from her trip, and you and Zahava were in a Jerusalem pub...who was home with the boys and dogs? What's the Israeli take on evening child care?
Debbie

Posted by: Debbie | May 29, 2008 2:27:37 PM

I think it's the fact that Israel, in regards to responsibility and reason, is way more mature. This is what builds mutual trust and makes Israel actually an agreeable place.

Posted by: a | May 29, 2008 2:30:12 PM

Nice one.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | May 29, 2008 3:43:17 PM

Wow. Enjoy :)

Posted by: tnspr569 | May 29, 2008 4:49:09 PM

donchya just love it? i remember when we lived in the states telling my kids at the tot lot that i needed to always see them. the independance that we give our children here is a gift, one they might not realize they have until they go back to the united states for a visit. there, they were not even allowed to play unsupervised in my parents front yard.

Posted by: nikki | May 29, 2008 5:16:45 PM

Are you sure that was your wife you were with? NOT the timid shrinking violet I remember....

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | May 29, 2008 5:41:50 PM

I guess the ambulance-chasers haven't made it to your side of the world yet. Be glad. Be very glad.

Posted by: psachya | May 29, 2008 6:19:45 PM

I have a hard time seeing myself ever becoming that Israeli. When I take my kids out to the park or whatever, I do always want to see them. I don't let them play unsupervised in my own front yard. And at this very moment, coincidentally enough, my 4 yo is on his very first field trip (to the fire station) and I am having conniptions because I did not personally see him buckled into his carseat.

I know that my Israeli friends have no problem with their little kids--toddlers, even--running around all on their own outside. I don't get it. What is different about Israel that makes that not terrifying? There are cars. There are strangers. There are all the dangers that make small children require their parents. I don't notice Israeli toddlers exhibiting noticeably better judgment when it comes to things like, oh, whether or not it is a good idea to start swinging pointy sticks around.

Ariella's trip is a different thing, because she was with her school. But do you let Yonah leave home and go to the park by himself?

Sorry to rattle on. This really is one of the things that freaks me out about aliya--that my kids will expect to get to roam the world alone before kindergarten! And that their mother will have a heart attack before they hit first grade...

Posted by: uberimma | May 29, 2008 7:50:53 PM

Wow, I never noticed this "relaxed parenting". I just took it for the natural state of things.

I raise my children on a kibbutz and they walk around the kibbutz from an early age. I think one of the reasons why I'm relaxed is because people here are really nice and helpful. We all know each other. We never lock our door, neither night nor day. On the kibbutz, I feel totally secure because no strangers can move around here without being noticed.

I realize that in the city, you have to be careful of cars and strangers, but I didn't realize American parents didn't let their children walk around unsupervised AT ALL. I admit, I wouldn't like it. And neither would my children.

Posted by: Lila | May 29, 2008 9:59:43 PM

"timid shrinking violet"...
What....Who....?????

Posted by: quietusleo | May 29, 2008 10:33:02 PM

One of the things I loved when I lived in Israel as a teenager was the autonomy. I also loved that one could really have a fun time at a party without everyone drinking and doing drugs (which I always found so boring.) A parent could trust their kids to go hang out at the beach, hop on a bus and go camping somewhere, or go to a party until late at night and not be so worried.

I remember returning to the States after my Junior year of H.S., and was visiting my Aunts in Jacksonville. I wanted to take a bus and visit some friends who lived in Coco Beach and she had a fit. No way was I to just hop on a bus and travel 3 hrs by myself to visit some friends for a few days. It was very hard readjusting to that attitude.

I am constantly being told that times have changed in Israel and it's not like it used to be 20+ years ago, but it's nice to know that hasn't change.

Posted by: jaime | May 29, 2008 10:33:36 PM

uberimma: I don't know if this will completely allay your fears, but....

In many ways Israel is still an innocent young country.

When we were here in 2002 on a pilot trip, I nearly had heart failure watching a young boy (who couldn't have been more than 5 years old) walk down the street (a city street in Jerusalem, no less!) with a nylon סקית (sakit/baggie)filled with coins and what appeared to be shopping list, completely ALONE toward the nearest מקולת (makolet/corner store). David, who having lived in Israel before (and was therefore unsurprised by the scene) took great pleasure in watching my horror, and let me "absorb" it all.

The kid came out of the store with a bag of groceries, the same סקית (though with fewer coins) a few minutes later. Several steps away from the store, he tripped and fell, spilling his purchases all over the sidewalk. Within a nanosecond the three nearest adults (who'd previously seemed oblivious to the boy's presence) leaped in his direction, righted him, collected his belongs, demanded to know his family name, where he lived, and if he was okay to go home alone. Only after they were satisfied that he knew where he was going, and that he was in fact okay, did they allow him to continue alone. Though, the three adults did follow him with their eyes for several minutes to be certain he was managing.

After the three adults continued on their way, David turned to me (a bit smuggly, if you must know!) and said "I knew you were shocked to see a kid of that age running an errand by himself. But I also knew that in a moment every adult around him would be a surrogate parent."

Having lived here nearly five years, I can with confidence tell you that kids are viewed, by-and-large, as a community asset. And as such, everyone looks after everyone else's kids.

Yes, there are exceptions to this. And, no, I am not so sure I would be as "relaxed" about stuff if we lived in a metropolitan area.

But you have to remember, this is a country filled with Jewish mothers and grandmothers! When Yonah was a baby, there wasn't a day that went by without some well-intentioned סבתא (Savta/grandmother) admonishing me for over-or-under-dressing him! I know some עולים (olim/immigrants) find this common-found behavior meddlesome or rude -- personally, I find it charming and reassuring.

I love that people care enough about the kids that they feel invested enough to vocalize and share their concerns! I love the tightly-knit sense of community it fosters.

I also love that I have become Israeli enough to admonish kids (even those I don't know!) to buckle their bike helmets, or move onto the sidewalk (and out of the road), or to stop hitting their brother when the situation warrants my participation!

There are cars here, too, you are right. But in residential neighborhoods there are speed bumps every 2 feet. And while people do drive like lunatics on the highways, they don't drive thus in residential areas דבקה (davka/"because") of the kids!

For the record, we don't let Yonah go to the park by himself. YET! But! We do let him take bottles to the recycling bins by himself! (a flight of stairs up from our street)

I guess the best way to sum it up is, as a parent, it is easier to be a bit more relaxed when you know that you have the eyes of the entire community helping you keep an eye on your kid....

During that same pilot trip, Gilad (then 6) became terribly dehydrated at camp. Word spread through the ישוב(yishuv/town) that the American kid needed an אנפוזיה(infusia/IV)... the next day, Gilad came home from playing at the park with friends actually swishing as he walked. "אמא(Ima/Mom," he asked me, "why did I have to dehydrate in a country filled with Jewish mothers?! Every where I went today, there were women holding out water bottles saying תשתה! (tishteh!/drink!) -- and they simply would not take no for an answer!"

Sorry to run on... but I guess the same topic that makes you uneasy (okay! slightly crazed with worry!) makes me eternally grateful to call this place home!


Ummm.... Jordan?! QuietusLeo?! ...oddly enough, I have the overwhelming urge to respond to both of you with a resounding "bite me!" ...but I won't..... :-)

Posted by: zahava | May 30, 2008 12:23:46 AM

Lila, it's by no means a universal in the U.S. that kids don't go out alone. Depends a lot on the neighborhood, the kind of area, the family, the state, the available buses...

Posted by: balabusta in blue jeans | May 30, 2008 3:18:52 AM

When I was pregnant in israel, i became very sick on a bus ride to Efrat. The bus driver pulled over and let me be sick in on the side of the road. When I reentered the bus everyone asked what the matter was. Once they found out I was expecting they swung into action with a cold compress, a sliced orange, rubbing my back, putting up my feet, and a host of advice. What a warm and loving community!!

Adults act in loco parentis for each others kids. It is truly a "it takes a village" philosophy in raising the next generation. There is a concept in prophetic literature of each member of Israel being responsible for each other, and it seems to working well in modern times as well.

Welcome home Ariella - never mind knowing where she is, I wonder that as beautiful as she is why David doesn't have a full time guard for her!!

Posted by: marjorie hirsch | May 30, 2008 2:32:29 PM

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