ByÂ Shmuel Katz
When we first came here on aliyah, it took some time for our kids to acclimate to living in Israel. From the language to the pace of everyday life (especially in school), things were radically different from what they had lived with in New York. Those first few months were especially hard because even we, the parents, had to realign our expectations to our new reality.
As you’ve seen here in these pages over the years, the process was often difficult, with huge struggles. Figuring out how to get from there to here and getting everyone comfortable with their surroundings in a new life and a new country is hard, agonizing work. We’re definitely happy with the outcome, but it wasn’t easy.
And, as you’ve also read in these pages, we’re thriving in our new lives. Some of our kids report that their friends or coworkers are stunned to hear them speak English without an accent and to learn they are immigrants; they have fit in that well. We are very proud.
That’s why it is so weird to see what’s been happening the past few weeks as we prepare to travel to the U.S. for Chaim’s wedding next week. The closer we get to our trip, the more we realize that our kids are so much more Israeli than American that they have no clue what is in store for them–and for us.
Take the weather. Mordechai asked in the family WhatsApp group what temperatures to expect for the trip. We told him that the daily highs should probably get to the mid 50s on most days and the nightly lows in the low 40s and possibly even the 30s. And then we translated it to Celsius for him.
The response was classic. “If it gets to 5Â° (41Â°F), I am going to cry.” I told him to get ready to cry and that it might even get 2as low as 2Â° (35Â°F). Batya then responded, “OMG, I am going to die!”
These are kids who used to “help” me shovel snow back in New York. They loved to bundle up and play outside all winter long. They walked 15—20 minutes to shul in the wind, over frozen sidewalks, and had a blast. But they’ve adjusted to a new reality.
To give you some perspective, as I write this, the weather in New York is rainy with a high of 52Â°F, while Bet Shemesh is partly cloudy with a high in the mid 70s. Even when it gets as low as the 40s here, that lasts a couple of days at most, unless you live in Yerushalayim or the Gush. Most places are pretty temperate year round.
We’re planning to take the kids to Times Square one afternoon during the trip. Outside of going to Disney with their grandparents for a bar/bat mitzvah trip, or participating in Yom Yerushalayim celebrations or something like that, the younger kids have never experienced the sheer number of people that Midtown Manhattan sees every day. And don’t even think about the subway!
Walmart. Target. Home Depot. We’ll even make a stop at the outlet stores. The size and scope of what is available will boggle their minds. Even the older ones, who have traveled a bit in Europe, have not seen things on an American scale for a decade.
Some of us will be in Manhattan for Shabbat. Will they be able to remember what it means not to carry outside? When we are shopping and there is no kosher food at the food court, how weird will they feel? Goldie and I have grown up with this, but our kids, especially the younger ones, have not.
Our primary focus this trip is the wedding, which will also be a bit of a change from what they are used to. It would have been cool to have had the time or budget to add a mini-vacation to the trip with an amusement park (in a warm place). But Goldie and I will still get plenty of amusement in seeing how much we’ve all changed over the last decade.
Shmuel Katz, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July 2006. Before making aliyah, Shmuel was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.