For the past few years, my husband and I have decided to divide our kids’ summers between the small southern Yishuv in Israel that we live in and a 2-3 week visit to their grandmother in Beachwood, Ohio. While we love the life we have built here in Israel, we constantly worry that perhaps our kids are missing out on many of the experiences that were formative to us in our childhood years.
There are two aspects of my kids’ summers are starkly different. Life in a small community in Israel during the heat of summer is carefree and laid back. The younger kids go to camps which cost about $30 a week, as they are mostly subsidized by the ministry of education. While the ones in kindergarten have an option to stay on until 4:00 pm, my third grader comes home at about 2:00 pm. The camps take place at their school and often the “camp counselors” were their teachers throughout the year. The opportunity to view their teachers in a fun setting strengthens the bonds between them and allows them to experience each other in a different light. One of the best things about Yishuv life is the independence of the kids. Once home, they walk to their friends’ houses or their friends come to ours nearly every day. There is no need to schedule in advance or check in to see how things are going. There is an unspoken agreement between the parents that if they are not interested in kids coming by, those kids can simply be sent on their way. For our fifth graders, the moms in the Yishuv came together with a strategic plan to keep them busy. We are all chipping in to hire an older teenage boy to take on the role of “youth coordinator” as he guides the kids through a myriad of projects to take on during the summer.
And of course, the pool. Pool membership fees are included in our city taxes. The pool’s opening in the summer is highly anticipated and discussed topic of conversation. It is a constant pool party as all the neighbors know each other and look forward to meeting up in the cool, refreshing waters. The pool has men, women, and mixed swim hours to ensure that everyone can find a time that is comfortable for them. There are also plenty of activities outside the pool where we meet. The Yishuv organizes community-wide hikes, camping trips, activities for the kids and nights out for their parents throughout the summer.
As July winds down, and as kids tend to do, they begin to complain of boredom and look forward to their upcoming flight to the States.
My kids love visiting Grandma in the summer. The magic of America, the green (vs our local desert browns), and not to mention the abundance of amazing ice cream, captivate their imagination in the weeks leading up to the trip. In America, they are carpooled from sports camp ($180 a week) to the community pool (which in Israel would be equivalent to a 5-star water park). In our recent searches we found that Microsoft and Apple both offer free afternoon classes in programming at the local mall. The closest mall to our Yishuv is 30 minutes away. More than anything, they so enjoy this special time they get to spend with Grandma – watching cartoons early morning in the den, spending Sunday afternoons in the stadium watching baseball and eating hotdogs. They love visiting all the places their Abba experienced as a child and have heard about in his stories.
Living as Olim in Israel, we are constantly straddling the two worlds – our present life in Israel and our past – our wonderful childhoods in America. More than any other time of the year, these summers are a time when these two worlds collide, and our children have a window into the world we grew up in. We are proud that their identity will be fiercely Israeli, but hope that the enchantment of their summers in Ohio will fortify their connections and understanding of the world outside our small piece of land in Israel. This delicate balance, the tightrope we walk, feels to us as a way to truly enjoy the best of both worlds.