From the Suburbs of Chicago to a farm in Israel.
From Chicago to Israel
In the beginning
One day I was a suburban girl with a husband, a job and 2 kids, living in a suburb of Chicago. A nearby suburb to the one I grew up in. I was about 10 miles proximity to my parents and sisters. Close enough to hang out, far enough to have our own life. Up until the year 1994, my idea of roughing it was overnight camp in a cabin (with running water and electricity) So there I was 35 years old, 2 small kids and a husband who decided that working just may not be for him. Being the good wife I so longed to be, we packed our little family up, said our tearful goodbyes to family, friends and all that was familiar to me and made our way to Israel, my husband's home. It was my thinking that I had kept him away from all of those (besides us) that he held dear in his life for the past 10 years. It was my turn. I hoped that being with his family and friends and his native country/language would help him to figure out what he wanted in life. I was wrong but that's another story!
We arrived at my in-laws tired and worn out from our journey with only one suitcase lost. Unfortunately, it held all the baby paraphanelia so I was a little upset. I don't remember a lot of that first week expect that overwhelming feeling of not understanding anybody, of people talking at me instead of to me, of using my duties as a mother as a shield. Slowly, things began to change. We started to "settle in." Ben started preschool and in the age old way, I began to meet the other moms in the mornings. Slowly, I would attempt to speak with them. My first big triumph was when a small group of them came to pick me up at the house to walk with me to my first parent/teacher meeting with them. I wanted to go, loved that they asked me but hesitated as I silently implored my husband, praying that he'd beg me off, explain to them that I needed him to be with me so that he could translate. He didn't. He told me in front of them to go with them and have fun. I felt betrayed, devasted and terribly afraid. How was I going to go on mile walk with 4 Israeli women? But, I went. It was okay. I could speak a little but mostly I just listened to them, warm in the knowledge that they wanted me with them, comfortable in knowing that although the words weren't clear, the language of mothers was pretty recognizable. And thankfully, when I got there, my husband was waiting for me to do the translating at the meeting. In his wisdom, he knew that walk would do more for me here in our little village than any translating he could ever do. I was making friends. As time passed, they invited me home for coffee and we made play dates with our kids.
While the other moms were were busy working, going to school or taking care of their homes, I traveled into town 5 days a weeks, 5 hours a day for 5 months to a total immersion program called Ulpan. Living in a farming village in southern Israel is nothing like living in a suburb (especially a Chicago suburb) of the United States. Once I learned the language I LOVED living there. There were so many differences and I revelled in those differences. I was awestruck every time I saw a camel or a Beduin woman with a basket on her head. Sometimes we would be driving and see a herd of goats feeding on the side of the road or horses grazing, no fence. the mountains were visible but distant, as was the fighting. Everywhere you went, there was history. The buildings, some in ruins were abundant. You could be passing by farmlands and see an ancient structure and imagine what it was like. In the cities. many of the structures were restored or renovated and you didn't have to imagine. It has been said that Israel holds all the wonders of the world within it's borders and I totally understand why Israeli's would say that. But, again I digress and will have to write more on this subject in another hub.
Other things were very different, as well, although I should add a disclaimer here. The Israel and the particular part of Israel that I moved to almost 20 years ago, has changed quite a bit since then. A visitor to Israel now would still enjoy a much simpler and more traditional life than most Americans experience but....a larger portion of Israel would be just as advanced as my life here in the US. However, in 1994, it wasn't quite there yet. I remember my son's first school field trip. They brought 2 cups for 25 kids to drink water with! At the doctors office, the nurses never changed the protective sheet on the exam table. I had to do it myself. I could go on and on about their hygienic ways but as much as I cringe, I also recognized something. Most of the Israeli children and families were healthy. By sharing the cups, they may very well have been speeding up the spread of chicken pox, etc but it was going to spread anyway. What is so wrong with everyone getting it at once? I remember when I was a little girl, my mother and her friends would purposely have all of us kids play together when one came down with one of the childhood diseases. When did my generation become so cautious? I also noticed that while I was worried and a bit put put off when my mother-in-law and her friends kept freshly butchered animals out for more than a day before they cleaned, cut and stored them. They left salads and pots of food out overnight and ate them the next day.They gave the babies chocolate milk or fruit juice in their bottles. All of these were things that were taboo for me. Yet....I was the one suffering from Crohn's disease. I was the one with bad teeth and glasses. My husband and his family were strong and healthy with amazing teeth! Please understand, I am not advocating any of the above behaviors, I am simply making an observation!
Other differences? At that first parent meeting at Ben's preschool , they talked about an upcoming field trip and asked for parent chaparones. I raised my hand and they asked me what kind of gun I had. They were looking for parents to guard the perimeters! Not quite what I was used to! Afternoon siestas were a must in Israel. Virtually everything closed down by 2pm. we ate our biggest meal of the day, then laid down to relax during the hottest part of the day. By 4 or 5, you would start seeing and hearing activity. Businesses would start opening up again, people would be out on the streets. In the later part of the evening, people would sit out on their front porches or take a walk and visit with one another. It was a lovely relaxing way to end our day! Life seemed much simpler there, so much less rushed, much more family and friend oriented. If I was running late, I could call any neighbor to watch for the kids. It wasn't unusual to be sitting outside the kid's school and have a friend call and ask you to grab their kids, too.Here you need permission in triplicate just to say hi to someone else's kids! Of course here in America, we don't have to worry as much about terrorists and missiles. I guess it's a trade off. My 12 years in Israel were beautiful and amazing! Though I am no longer married to my husband, I will be forever grateful to him for bringing me and our children there, where the some of the most generous and gracious people live.