I have always made a conscious choice not to be that olah that goes through life in Israel comparing. That approach works for some, but I just like to live in the thick of things here and not compare it (or prices) to how things might be outside of Israel. It lowers my expectations and creates fewer opportunities for disappointment.
But on election day here in Israel (yes, it has taken my quite a while to post this one, humble, little post) I just couldn’t help myself. This being my first year here with school-aged children, it was different than any other election day I had experienced here, or in the US.
One can easily understand the astounding voting rates here when you see and feel the celebratory air. Schools close, banks close, offices close, and the country takes a day off.
… And partially because of that, but I think mostly because in Israel we still don’t take our democracy for granted, voting is a family affair.
Most families came up to vote as a group. Children went with their parents to choose a party and many placed the envelope in the ballot box with or for their parents – including mine.
Since we had the day off, after voting we went to the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem. As did at least 1/3 of the rest of the families in Israel, apparently. Navigating parking was an exercise in and of itself, but after surviving the z00-at-the-entrance-to-the-zoo, we went into what was just an amazing experience.
Only in Israel can I take my kids to see the same animals we have seen time and time again in the zoo, but there are plaques with Biblical quotes describing the six days of creation from Genesis.
… I couldn’t stop myself from comparing. As regulars at the Philadelphia Zoo in the US, my children would always remark “Psst! Ima, look! There are other Jews!”. Funny how that didn’t happen once here.
And then we came upon it. Only here does our venture to see the animals end at, of course, Noah’s Ark.
The overpriced concessions inside are all kosher, of course. So this time I could say “yes.”
As we got near the exit of the zoo, I came upon the largest collection of birds I have ever seen, and thought to myself “I have never seen so many different kinds of birds in one place before.”
But then I immediately looked up and thought “I don’t think I have ever seen this many different kinds of Jews in one place before.”
Margelit Hoffman of Shmuel Hoffman’s Blog wrote a very honest and thought provoking article for Mavenmall.comcalled “The Facebook Churban”. In it, she explains why her family is removing the internet from their home. They are Torah observant Jews who work on the internet. It is their livelihood. She has done a fabulous job of articulating the powers of good vs. the dangers. This move will have serious ramifications on their daily routine and what reads to be significant inconveniences. Yet they are removing it anyway.
I agree with just about every word she has to say. At the same time, I am not getting rid of my facebook account, or the internet in my house. I feel really good about my remaining focused on using them both for good, and trying to only utilize the blessings of technology for kiddush Hashem. Maybe I am just “not there yet”, maybe my working from a Starbucks is just too unrealistic. Maybe I have an easier time shutting them off and down – I would like to think I do.
Where her post hits closest to home is on the matters of disconnecting from family members and bitul zman (an inappropriate waste of one of Hashem’s greatest gifts to us, time.) If I am going to be honest with myself and truly put G-d in the center all of the time, then I need to do a serious “cheshbon hamachshev, v’machshevot” (accounting of my computer, and my thoughts) about my use of the internet and social media, and perhaps make more guidelines and restrictions for myself. It is as much of a danger from my droid as it is from my laptop, if not more so. And that isn’t dependent upon internet in my home. That depends on me. I have left her article up on my laptop, nagging me to reread it and make the personal assessments necessary. Which means getting off of all of the other stuff in cyberspace and really focusing on it!
I don’t think it is an accident that Tisha B’Av comes about a month before Elul. The process of teshuva has begun, and before we know it, the time of cheshbon hanefesh will be here. I know for me this year, my relationship to my computer, my email, my blessed and beloved social network and the internet will be at the forefront. Stay tuned.
What do you do to avoid hillul Hashem and bitul zman in your house from the internet????
I had a shocking experience today. I have a cordial and somewhat of a “working” relationship with the local public library. Now.
I remember the librarians’ trepidation when as new residents I would stroll in with six children in tow, confident in my ability to maintain “order”.
There is one librarian in particular is, well, just the cranky type. Over the years, I have listened to my fair share of curt reprobations and reminders, and I have tried to respond to with consistent smiles, patience and cheeriness. Over the years she has come to understand that my children actually won’t trash her library. She has come to appreciate my desire to not only respect her, but the library itself. My volunteering to teaching music programs there hasn’t hurt. I only learned this year that the library is her baby. She is responsible for its existence, and has been there tending to it since it was a storefront with some boxes of donated books. So, she is naturaly protective. I have come to understand and have tremendous admiration for her efforts and concern for the library. I recognize her worries as those of a mother cub, the library being her baby.
I gave a performance at the library yesterday, a celebration of Jewish music for children and their families. I went back to the library today for some follow up, and she was very kind and appreciative.
And that is when she said it: ”You know, I have to say, you are just, well, more put together than a lot of those Orthodox women. You should talk to them. You know it really is such a shame.”
She truly meant it as a compliment. What I think is lost on her is that when I go into the library the VAST majority of the people coming in are in T-shirts, tank tops, jeans, shorts, flip flops, etc. It is totally, utterly normal in our small, rural town to be very casually dressed. From where I am standing, “dressed” is a very kind adjective some of the time. Yet it’s those “Orthodox women” that are slobs. Isn’t it always?
I think it goes without saying that the only reason she noticed so starkly and felt she could say something to me is because she is a non-Orthodox Jew. You know the lack of funkiness on the part of us religious ladies is really giving the rest of the Jews such a bad name… and clearly it isn’t appreciated.
I don’t resent her feeling the way she does, or even her telling me. In fact, I am glad she feels she can speak plainly to me with candor.
Having lived in the US as a non-Orthodox Jew, Israel as an Orthodox Jew, and then back in the US as an Orthodox Jew, I really, really do understand exactly how she feels.
Lenny Solomon of Shlock Rock* produced an album of original songs called No Limits. On that album he has a song called “Representing”. “Every day we’re representing…” he sings. And we are. We are Hashem’s agents. Ambassadors. Everything we say and do is watched, noticed and judged. By EVERYONE who isn’t a religious Jew, especially other Jews. It is true all of the time.
This morning I put on a little makeup and jewelry to go to the library and grocery store. I am known in both. (Did I mention this is a small, rural town?) No one who spends what I do in the grocery store on a weekly basis goes unnoticed. Consistently needing two shopping carts doesn’t help either. Today they remarked on the miracle of my having no kids in tow. Really.
Part of me feels really silly getting done up for the library and grocery store. Why take the time? Who cares what other people think? It is a trip to the grocery store, after all.
The other part of me knows that every three to four weeks a complete stranger will stop me while I shop and tell me about their intermarried daughter, their trip to Israel 15 years ago, or even that they have a “baal te-something” child that won’t eat much in their home. Do I mind if they follow me and watch what I buy?
There was a day I was wearing particularly shlumpy clothes into the local CVS. Who would notice? Who would even know I was a frum Jew? In a denim skirt, sweatshirt and baseball hat I could be anybody…. only I forgot that my son with his tzitzit and kippah was with me. A Jewish couple that had just moved into town stopped me outside and introduced themselves as I went back to my car. I have (embarrassing) reminders like this happen to me all of the time.
It is Elul, and we are supposed to remember now more than ever that Hashem is always watching us. That he sees what we do, how we behave, and that he deeply, deeply cares. It can be a positive motivator to remember that people are watching too. Whenever you think “it’s just me” and they aren’t watching you, they are. It isn’t just a question of whether we bothered with makeup or some jewelry, or clothes that have even some modicum of fashion.
We frum Jews sort of think that the world is holding us to a higher standard when it comes to how we speak, how much we smile at others, our patience when waiting in line, etc. But “we” is awfully communal and vague. Each and every individual one of us really is. The way I see it, it is an obligation and a burden, but also a privilege .
It is a burden of privilege the same way that living in Israel is: it is a burden of relevance.
*Shlock Rock is coming to the US later this year and I am booking engagements for them, so if you are interested, write to: email@example.com
Tzedek-Tzedek is a powerful blog that confronts really difficult issues Israel faces today. I appreciate the writing as well as the courage of the topics. I think this piece, about fires recently started in Israel, is a disturbing and important one, but I always wonder about giving more publicity to shameful behavior in the religious Jewish world. http://tzedek-tzedek.blogspot.com/2010/05/grave-and-burning-issue.html. This would be a sad, sad example of Abbas getting his way. Our democracy not at work.
According to this one source, Obama is losing his ground with American Jewish voters. http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=176051. The article juxtaposes two polls to suggest that the shift in support is due to the shift in support for Obama’s Middle East policies. I don’t believe there has been a dramatic transformation, and that suddenly Israel has become a primary reason for US Jewish votes for either party. So I wonder how much of the shift really has anything to do with Israel, and if as little as I suspect, then why the shift? Is it sadly just “the economy, stupid”?
On a much lighter note, I resisted watching this youtube video when my friends all posted it. Then I watched it. And then I posted it on twitter and facebook. So if any of you haven’t gotten it yet, or resisted it like me, please watch. A young mother from Kansas City and her husband went looking for “truth” while in Kansas City, and found Judaism. Then on vacation in Israel, she felt it was a safer place to raise her kids than the violent streets of her former home. The cynic in me is pretty sure the story is being played up more than a little for the ratings of Israel’s American Idol, “Kochav Nolad”. But it is still a feel-good story. Here is my question: if American Jews had to live in worse neighborhoods would they finally learn how safe and peaceful Israel is for children too?
Lastly, I want to make a shameless plug for Natural Jewish Parenting. Not the philosophy, the magazine and web site. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Apparently there are a bunch of us “freaks” out there, scattered in each community…