Gentle morning fog tip-toeing across green fields to disperse silently over a green-blue sea. This is my Israel.
15 years ago it was my prison
Going through a divorce is never easy. Divorce in a foreign country is even harder. When I first became a single mom, I suddenly realized I was stuck. I came to Israel as a real Zionist, but now I had lost the freedom to leave. Yes, I realized that it’s best for the kids to have both parents and international ping-pong is just silly. Still, I was born an American! I had all these rights and freedoms and … sigh. So, I decided to grab this as an opportunity. Now I can live wherever I want to live! I had been so uncomfortable in the poverty-stricken, trashed-up, hopeless neighborhoods my ex had always chosen. There is a poverty mindset – and I choose to distance myself from it.
Reality crushed my ideals
So! Where to now? Follow your dreams…I had always wanted to live on a kibbutz. I called the Kibbutz organization – Takam. First, they told me there were no homes available. I pointed out the two kibbutzim that I had found online, actively searching for members. Then, they told me they couldn’t take me because every family unit was expected to be self-sustaining. This was in 2000, the beginning of the Hi-Tech Boom, and I was making a good salary.
When I told the Takam person on the phone what I made, she said, “Oh! Well, you can rent a home on a kibbutz!”
“Hm. So you do have homes. You just want to get more money for them.”
“Haha. Yes, you caught me.”
Suddenly, I didn’t want to live on a kibbutz anymore. Later, friends told me there were many reasons for not taking new families, especially not single-parent families. And others told me that kids of renters often feel left out of the community. Something similar to how day-schoolers are treated in a boarding school.
Where to now?
I searched for a home to raise my little family. At first, we moved every year. I couldn’t stop fidgeting. I went to where the “good schools” were. We ended up in Modiin, where they all graduated from high school. This is “good city”, with a “good population”. I made sure to check out the school reputations before I signed a lease – to get a “good school”. My American family sees, as my USAF brother once said, “nothing but a big red target on the map.” But citizens know that every Israeli town, every neighborhood, has a unique culture. No matter how liberal-minded I wanted to be, as a mama-bear, I wanted the best for my kids.
It was all BS. The “best” school in the “best city for kids” was a complete waste of time. Often teachers didn’t show up for classes. One teacher was double-booked, and it was never sorted out. The head of the math department changed the date for the diagnostic test, during the summer vacation, and never bothered to fulfill a promise to give the test again.
So, my youngest son graduates from high school. “Now it’s my turn! Now I can live by the sea! I don’t have to choose a place that is good for children. I can choose a place that I like.” Of course, the closer you get to the Mediterranean, the more expensive it gets. In my budget: a new 4-bedroom apartment in Hadera, in a new development across the highway, by the sea. This is a town I never would have chosen to raise my kids in. It has a “bad” reputation. What a load of crock.
Hadera has a small city feel. Everyone we’ve met has been kind and friendly. Teens seem less rowdy. The population seems more racially diverse and tolerant. Maybe I just like the people because I don’t have to deal with other school parents or teachers. I don’t know.
I know that the view from my place in Hadera is of deep seas of the marine nature preserve – beautiful and dramatic. It’s the morning fog lifting over the valley. The rain drenched fields of January. The unique, futuristic skyline of Netanya as seen from the north. It’s a weekend quiet like I’ve never experienced elsewhere in Israel.
And it’s the area across the street from the new buildings – the old neighborhood where trash is strewn about. Dogs are kept for security. People yell their personal business out upper-floor windows. Every unit has a rigged addition.
Ah well, no place is perfect, is it? I’ve done my bit in volunteer organizations, enough to know that you can’t change people. If neighborhood cleanliness is not a priority for the people living it, it will always be trashed, how ever many times you clean it up. Maybe it seems heartless, but I can’t see the old neighborhood from my balcony, so I don’t care. I love the parts of Hadera that I choose to notice.