If you’ve been following along in the U.S. day school tuition debacle (summary: it is completely unsustainable for average people to pay $10K, $20K, $30K per child per year for preschool/elementary school/high school), in every post on this topic, someone has to mention that in Israel, you can get a religious education FOR FREE.
Well, it’s not exactly for free, but it’s much, much cheaper.
Unfortunately, it’s not in a vacuum, so if you move here for the inexpensive religious education, I personally think you will be woefully disappointed.
On the financial front, Israel is an expensive country in which to live. Housing near the center of the country (Tel Aviv-Jerusalem-Haifa triangle), where most of the industry is and the bulk of the population lives: pricey. Cars and everything about them: expensive. Food: no cheaper than what you’re paying now. Salaries, if you work for an Israeli company: lower. A lot.
And that practically free religious education? Comes in classes that are probably 1.5 to 2.5 as large as what your kids are in now. With all the good and bad of public school.
Another reason that people give for making aliyah: Israel is where Jews should live. Period.
Yeah, I don’t buy that either. Jews have lived outside of this area since the destruction of the First Temple. Some people argue it’s a less fulfilling life outside of these borders. That’s probably not going to change anyone’s mind, though. People eke out a Jewish existence in all kinds of far-flung places. Who am I to judge?
We had a nice life in New York, friends, a community we liked, an apartment we liked, a pricey-but-wonderful school we liked. So aside from the emotional pull to Israel (family), what did it for me?
It was a feeling that my kids would live a more integrated Jewish life in Israel.
The Jewish life they had in New York was fine. Miss M learned all kinds of great things, Jewish things, in school. We never felt discriminated against; we never had trouble.
But here, the seasons fit with the cycle of the holidays. During Sukkot it’s not too cold to sit outside. During Pesach, no matter how “early” it falls on the secular calendar, the weather is pleasant and befits “chag ha’aviv” (the holiday of spring). Tu b’Shvat was a couple of weeks ago, the almond trees are blooming, and spring is on the way. How’s it looking in New York? Still frozen?
The language of gan and school is the language of prayer and the language of the Torah. Perhaps the language is a little more old-fashioned, because they didn’t telephone and SMS and Facebook when the prayers were arranged, but there are tens of thousands of familiar words. Their learning, at least for the first several years, will be almost seamless.
They meet Jews whose roots are from all over the world. Not as much as I would like, in this little expensive patch of suburbia, but it’s more diverse than what we left.
Every hike has history, Jewish history, underneath. Every hill has a story to tell that is relevant to my children, and how they got to this place and this time.
These are things that cannot be experienced in New York, Chicago, Alaska, London, Hong Kong, Paris, or thousands of other places on Earth.
It’s taken me time to figure it out, but my hunches are proving true. The old ad campaign, “Israel: No One Belongs Here More Than You,” is the lifestyle we chose…and we’re living it.