Monday, August 3, 2009

Nitkatnu hadorot

An unscientific survey of my peers has revealed that many believe that life in the one-year Israeli yeshivot/seminaries is much easier now than it was back in our day.

First of all, no one could ever get in touch with us, because we had neither cell phones nor email accounts

But our communication issues were only part of the problem.

The main difference between now and then is that – as a whole – our generation seemed to have far fewer places to go for Shabbat.

I mean, sure, we all had a handful of obscure third-cousins-five-times-removed or a few so-called “old friends” of our parents, whom we had never even heard of before.

Ever-so-slightly exaggerated version of actual quote:

“You don’t know the X’s?! But Abba went to high school with Mr. X! And we got together with them once, oh, it must have been about 15 years ago. Remember? You were about two years old, and you played with their daughter? We’ve known them FOREVER! You really MUST call them. I’m sure they’ll LOVE to have to you for Shabbat!”

To this day, I still shudder when I recall a certain phone call to some elderly relatives (a”h) living in Haifa. The assimonim were dropping; the girls around me were motioning that I should get off the phone already; and I was literally shouting into the phone. I had to repeat everything about ten times, because the elderly relatives couldn’t hear me.

Ah, good times, good times…

But today - thanks to NBN, and also due to the fact that much of our generation spent those years in Israel and, as a result, was determined to make aliyah ourselves - rare is the American student who doesn’t have an assortment of aunts, uncles, grandparents, or very close family friends (whom the student actually knows…) living here in Israel.

Oh, and did I mention that when WE were here for the year, we had to trudge ten miles in the snow every single day?

As my kids would say, staaaam….



  1. You're younger, so I don't know exactly when your time was. But I think that today's kids miss out on real Israel. They can spend two years in the country and never learn Hebrew.
    In my day, we were forced to learn and function in Hebrew, even if we came for a few months.

  2. Muse - Good point. B"H, in the program I attended, we lived with Israeli girls and had classes in Hebrew. Sadly, however, many (most?) of these programs are run in English, and the girls have no interaction with "real" Israelis.

  3. Interesting post. Would make a nice scene in a series.

  4. I came in '95 to Hebrew U. I was in shikunei ha'elef in givat ram. we had email - in har hatzofim.
    there were 2 phones for 1500 students in givat ram.

    I did have real family here, and there were telecards. There were buses once an hour out of givat ram dorm area until 8pm. then there were buses that got you to the edge of the campus (over a mile from the dorms)

    Also, my REAL family was my siblings, newly married couples, some with tiny babies, none with guest rooms. I always felt like I was imposing when I went away. I made every possible effort to stay in, even organizing the first mass stay-in shabbat of the summer.

    Then I moved to Bar Ilan. Life was much better. I had a phone in my room. My brother had an off-campus apt, so I'd sometimes eat meals with him, and I had access to email just a 5 minute walk away. (though often the line for the computer was 4 hours)

  5. (for those who don't know geography - givat ram to har hatzofim is over an hour by bus, and we were not given access to any computers on givat ram, despite all kinds of attempts at finding "protekzia")

  6. Ilana-Davita - Do you mean a series about my post-high school Israel experiences? If so, here's something that happened during my second year.

    LeahGG - LOL!
    Telecards were after my time. We had to make do with assimonim, which would drop at an alarming rate when one was making intercity calls, and as it so happened, most of the places I would go for Shabbat required intercity calls. I recall standing in line at my school's pay phone with a huge bag of assimonim in my hand. Even by the end of relatively short calls, most of the assimonim would have usually disappeared...

  7. I'm curious whether Shikunei HaElef is still being used as a dorm. My then-not-yet-wife was there in 1973-4 and I visited frequently after we met at a Pardes shabbaton in the winter. Boy, that was a scrungy place! But we met some nice people there, most of whom have disappeared from our lives. Now my wife Janet is having her say:
    I studied English and Education. The English Dept. was on Giv'at Ram and the Education Dept. on Mt. Scopus, most of which was under construction. Getting back and forth was not fun! Lots of things were not fun: the country was shell-shocked from the Yom Kippur War; I don't even remember what month classes started. I dropped out the next school year and never finished a degree. I have few fond memories of Hebrew U. Only when I see shikunei ha-elef from the highway, I sometimes wax curious about whether those buildings are still being used as dorms.

    1. Goyisherebbe and Janet - Thanks for sharing your memories!


Feel free to leave a comment.