Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Real World

It was never easy to raise kids. Now it's probably even harder. I'm glad I raised mine here in Israel, first in Jerusalem then Shiloh. Honestly, I can't say they turned out exactly to "plan," but I'm certainly not what my parents planned, either.

Here in Shiloh my kids enjoyed lots of independence, even from the youngest age. Looking back, it's amazing that we took it for granted that once a child was old enough to go to "gan," nursery school, he/she was expected to walk home all by himself. My youngest is a November baby, so he was less than three and walked a kilometer and a half, a mile, home. There was no traffic, and the kids all walked together in a group. In those days there was a van that took them in the morning, or they never would have made it on time. Of course, the kids who lived closer walked without their parents. The kids ran their own social life. I didn't have to deal with "play dates."

The Jewish kids coming to Israel for their "year before college" weren't raised with a fraction of that freedom. That's why many can't deal with the challenges and sudden independence their year in Israel offers. Emes Ve-Emunah: Facing the Truth of Religious Dropouts Most kids have little experience with public transportation and freedom from parental supervision. Even though they've been educated from the age of three or four in Jewish schools, they aren't fluent in Hebrew. Their first taste of freedom came with their car keys. Only with a drivers license, have they traveled alone.

Yes, many of the kids do fine. They adapt to their new environments and take it all very seriously. But for others being in Israel, away from family, is their chance to do something "new."

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