Monday, January 25, 2010

Little House in the Middle East

As long time readers are aware, a significant portion of this blog is devoted to those aspects of Israeli life and culture which I find fascinating, amusing, quirky, or just plain odd.

But in all fairness, there was much about my American upbringing which our kids would undoubtedly find strange, alien, and – in some cases – perhaps even somewhat shocking.

Note that I’m not talking about things which fall into the category of “They Weren’t Invented Yet” – you know, things like cell phones, digital cameras, PC’s, etc.

No, I’m referring to the cultural norms and standards which YZG and I experienced when growing up in a very different time and place.

Over the years, I’ve told the kids stories from my youth and childhood, but they can’t relate to many of the ideas and concepts which we took so much for granted.

For instance:

  • Co-ed elementary school classes
  • Early admission to college
  • School on Chol HaMoed Succot
  • Getting milk cartons every morning in school
  • Being the only Orthodox Jewish family on our very long block
  • Car trips (For example, my grandparents a”h lived about an 8-hour drive away from us, and we visited them at least three times a year. In contrast, our kids consider a two-hour drive to be a major journey…)

Please feel free to leave your own examples in the comment section.

As far as our Israeli kids are concerned, these things are just as foreign as anything found in, say, the “Little House” books – with a few minor differences, of course.

Namely, our fathers never played the fiddle or trapped animals in the woods; our mothers never churned their own butter or preserved their own meat; YZG never had to milk the cows; and I never had a corn cob doll…smile_teeth


  1. Summer camp (especially sleepaway camp) for 8 weeks.
    Bungalow colonies (well, for you "out of towners", that's probably foreign, too)
    Learner's permits
    Im sure there are many others, this is what I thought of off the top of my head.

  2. Malke - What is this "bungalow colony" of which you speak?

    Actually, that reminds of yet another one: Growing up in a community which didn't have an eruv or a kosher pizza shop until I was in high school.

  3. Forget about a kosher pizza shop, For those of us from communities that had really minimal traditional/orthodox presence, there is the several times a year trip to buy kosher meat and cheese for the freezer (or the ordering of the shipment that gets flown in if you are really out).

    Snow in the sukkah is another 'never in Israel' experience. And ice-skating on a frozen pond/lake or even just a plain outdoor rink is something our kids will never experience locally. Nor will earning $$$$ shoveling out driveways and cars for your neighbors.


  4. Mrs. S, your childhood sounds suspiciously like mine- coed elementary school, no pizza place or eruv till I was older (my hometown still doesn't have a pizza place).

    No bungalows for us, but we did visit my cousins from Brooklyn at Sims for a few summers. 8 weeks of Morasha from 4-9th grades.

    Yes, my children's childhood is definitely worlds away from my own.

  5. Mrs. S.-
    You didn't have a corn cob doll?!?
    Tell your kids that we weren't allowed to cross the street by ourselves until we were 9 or 10. Watch their heads explode.

    Hey! I stayed at Sims for a few summers! When were you there?

  6. SuperRaizy- sorry I should have been more specific. We didn't stay whole summers at Sims, just visited for a few shabbosim. I must have been about 6 or 7 so 81 or 82?

    I distinctly remember going to buy Foxy Pops at some little market on or near the property and fathers announcing over the PA system "Yossi your franks are ready, come home and eat!"

  7. Abbi-
    I was there in 82 and 83, but I was 13 and 14 at the time, so we wouldn't have hung out ( :

  8. Shoshana - Good ones! And another Succot-related example is that in the States, a well-engineered succah is one that can withstand hurricanes and snowstorms and has no drafts. In contrast, here in Israel, as you know, a well-designed succah lets in air and isn't located in the direct sun.

    Abbi - I'm such an out-of-towner that I've never even heard of Sims! And speaking of which, another thing my kids don't know is that there's any difference between New Yorkers and the rest of us... :-)

    Raizy - What can I say? I had a deprived childhood... :-)
    And LOL about crossing the street!


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