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Thursday, October 05, 2006

The mountain comes to Mohammed (so to speak)

Although I find it interesting that people don't think twice about relocating thousands of miles within their home country to pursue promising professional opportunities or for retirement, it is somehow accepted as a given that one of the more serious stumbling blocks placed before anyone considering 'Aliyah' (moving to Israel) is the difficulty in leaving loved-ones behind. 

Obviously there are a few mental hurdles to be cleared when considering moving to a new continent/culture, but with the advent of modern air travel, the physical difference between a separation of 6 or 12 hours seems an odd hook on which to hang the decision not to move to Israel.

Before anyone jumps in prematurely, let me reassure you that today's post is NOT meant as a criticism of those who opt not to make aliyah (for any of a thousand perfectly valid reasons).  Moving to Israel is an extremely personal and complex decision (not unlike the decision to become more or less observant), and it would be wildly unfair to suggest it is the correct decision for anyone but oneself.

That having been said, I will freely admit that for us the comfort of having most of our immediate family living close by in Connecticut/New York weighed heavily on us when we started making concrete plans to relocate to Israel. 

My parents lived within 20 minutes of our house (as did one of my sisters) and our kids enjoyed a particularly close bond with them in no small part due to being able to see them once or even twice a week.  My other sister's place in Manhattan made visits a little less spontaneous, but still there was a sense of easy accessibility that preserved an intimacy to the relationship.

However, as an example of how people can and do relocate far from family, after completing his graduate studies, my younger brother decided to stay in the San Francisco Bay area... and has settled down quite comfortably there with his wife and kids.  My parents go out to visit them every year (just as they come to see us), but our significant physical separation from my brother and his family certainly makes preserving the informal intimacy of our relationship a task at which I have to consciously work.

The reason I've brought this up today is that my parents called a couple of weeks ago to talk about an upcoming trip to Israel.  I was a bit taken aback since after their last trip (last spring) we had all agreed that they would probably not be coming this summer... rather, we would come to visit them in Connecticut. 

It turns out they weren't talking about a spring/summer visit.  They were talking about arriving at the beginning of November!  As if this wasn't enough to baffle me, I started getting really confused when they began talking about renting an apartment.  You see, we have a nice guest suite in our home (some of you may have even enjoyed its hospitality), and for the month or so that they usually come (with their two dogs, of course) it is a perfectly comfortable arrangement for everyone. 

But it finally started to became clear when they told us they were planning on staying until the end of March! 

FIVE MONTHS!   YAAAAAAY!  This was beyond the scope of a simple tourist visit... this was temporary residency (at least in concept)!

When I went to check out the Jerusalem apartment they will be renting (overlooking the King David hotel, no less!) I sensed a possible complication.  You see it is a fully furnished flat with a kosher kitchen.  I mention this because I was raised in a home where matzoh sat comfortably beside bread in the kitchen on Passover... Bacon Lettuce & Tomato sandwiches were a dandy mid-week treat... and a fancy restaurant meal more often than not included either Chinese (think 'Mushu Pork', not 'Moshe Peking') or New England Surf & Turf. 

Though they are not particularly religiously observant people (unless one counts the fact that they read treppenwitz religiously), my parents are extremely proud/committed cultural Jews and have maintained lifelong affiliations with either reform or conservative synagogues (usually the former).  So you can imagine my surprise when I asked my parents if they wanted me to box up and put away the kosher dishes and utensils that came with the apartment they replied "don't be silly, if you, Zahava and the kids will be spending time with us in the apartment we'll keep kosher while we're in Israel".

[!]

Needless to say, the idea of having my parents within a 20 minute drive again has all of us giddy with anticipation.  And when the kids heard that the apartment has a second bedroom for guests, they immediately started talking about over-night visits and rolling out of bed to the aroma of grandpas famous pop-overs.

Over the next few weeks we will be making arrangements for their Internet access, memberships at the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, the American Cultural Center and the Israel Museum (including getting the respective schedules of their upcoming events and lectures).  We'll also start compiling the concert schedule for the Jerusalem Symphony and the Jerusalem Theater.  Other suggestions are welcome.

Who knows... maybe I'll even get them into an ulpan (Hebrew language immersion) class once they're here.  :-)

Can you tell I'm a little excited?

We left the U.S. a little over three years ago with heavy hearts at having to leave behind family that had been extremely close in both emotion and proximity.  Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that they would come for anything more than short visits.  I hope that at least part of the reason behind this extended visit is that during their previous trips they became comfortable living here in Israel. 

But I'm  guessing that having the big kids visit at their place for a couple of weeks this past summer was just too big a tease for my parents, and they decided that if we weren't going to spend more time in the US., the mountain would simply have to come to Mohammed... especially as the mountain is retired and free to travel.

Count-down to arrival: T -28 days and counting!!!!

221_16_5_138

Posted by David Bogner on October 5, 2006 | Permalink

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that does sound very excitiing for you family :)

Posted by: Sarah | Oct 5, 2006 2:39:27 PM

Great news for everyone. My parents spent a sabbatical here a few years ago and it was wonderful having them close for a few months (they went to Ulpan Etzion and had the time of their lives there, btw)

Posted by: Simon | Oct 5, 2006 2:51:18 PM

I'm pleased for you and your family:

I just hope my parents don't amble onto your blog and get any ideas!

Posted by: PP | Oct 5, 2006 3:34:55 PM

wow! how exciting for you and the kids! I'd add the national parks pass to your list.

Posted by: rachel | Oct 5, 2006 3:38:43 PM

Dear David,
I sent an e-mail to you (from Italy) about an online literary magazine.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Regards,
Flaviano

Posted by: Effe | Oct 5, 2006 3:46:43 PM

David - imagine MY surprise when within a week of deciding to sell their house to relocate to Manhattan, they book flights to Israel to spend the winter with you guys!
Good thing I'm so tough-skinned or I'd take it personally!
Don't worry... I'll just be sitting here in CT... in the dark! ;) (looking forward to having them home for Pesach!)

Posted by: val | Oct 5, 2006 3:53:53 PM

You mean to say that your folks don’t speak Hebrew?!! Ok. It’s no wonder it’s not easy to get an Israeli Cultural Center, until all Jews learn their ‘native’ tongue, we’ll never have full access to the language, unless of course we get access to Israel first!

Posted by: pk | Oct 5, 2006 4:13:56 PM

how wonderful...not only for you...but for the kids and the bubbeh and zaideh... yahooooooo...my parents used to come for six weeks every year and the bond between them and the kids lasted from trip to trip...enjoy

Posted by: marallyn | Oct 5, 2006 4:41:53 PM

ps...when i saw the clip for sukkot i thought of yonah...hope he likes it

Posted by: marallyn | Oct 5, 2006 4:42:54 PM

Mazel tov! I hope this works out well for everyone concerned, and that your parents enjoy being with you...a lot!

Posted by: Elisson | Oct 5, 2006 5:32:02 PM

Mazel Tov! How exciting for your family.

Posted by: Fern | Oct 5, 2006 6:01:43 PM

David,
Wov! Having your parents spend so much time so close to the kids sounds wonderful.
That is the reason why my parents made alyah eight years ago, to be close to my sister and her five (at that time four) kids. Not that i do not count, but moving to Brooklyn was out of the question for them.

Posted by: David S | Oct 5, 2006 6:24:47 PM

this is wonderful news! one of the main reasons we live where we do in israel is because my almost all of my in-laws are in close walking distance. my thinking was that since one very important part of the grandparent/aunt/uncle/cousin connection was now going to be 6,000 miles away, we were going to be very close, physically and emotionally, to the g/a/u/c component that was already in israel. it was a good decision.

Posted by: nikki | Oct 5, 2006 6:42:48 PM

How special for all of you guys! I am sure you will enjoy having them so nearby! Chag Sameach!

Posted by: Essie | Oct 5, 2006 7:01:27 PM

congrats! see the way people can give for the people they love?

i hope my famly works out the same

sorry i havent been commenting, but my boyfriend was here from israel... now im back on board, and looks like ill be back in israel in december!

Posted by: Lisa- the other one | Oct 5, 2006 7:09:38 PM

"Folks leaving for Israel" - I see a trend developing...wonder who's next?

Posted by: Account Deleted | Oct 5, 2006 7:14:36 PM

AWESOME!!!!

Posted by: Kelly | Oct 5, 2006 7:27:41 PM

This is GREAT! Maybe they could turn this into an annual tradition? Half the year there, half the year here? I have a friend who has every intention of doing this as soon as her daughter starts college--she won't leave the States because ALL of her family is close by but she has always wanted to live in Israel (she volunteered on a kibbutz when younger), so she's going to split her time. If your folks do the same thing, it will be the best of both worlds for all the family!

Posted by: aliyah06 | Oct 5, 2006 9:11:03 PM

As a bubby who lives close to her grandchildren I can understand your parents' decision...enjoy!!

Posted by: BubbyT | Oct 5, 2006 9:43:59 PM

Wow, that is terrific. One of our chief concerns when we were planning our aliya is the fact that most of my family has lived within walking distance of each other for the last couple of generations, so it would be very hard on my family for us to leave (with the only grandchild for both sides and great grandchild for one side) as well as how hard it would be not to see the family whenever we wanted. My father would also love to get an apartment out in Yerushalayim though and spend the chagim and whatever other time my parents could spare out here.

Posted by: Max Power | Oct 5, 2006 11:03:14 PM

Here's a link to an interesting article on the topic of part-time residents in Israel ... from The Forward:

http://www.forward.com/articles/as-tourists-buy-holiday-homes-jerusalemites-gripe/

Drew

Posted by: Drew | Oct 6, 2006 12:14:48 AM

Terrific. I am sure they will love being able to have such an extended stay. Speaking as a visitor (even a guest of chez Treppenwitz) I think what they might appreciate fixed up in advance are good cellphones and maybe the possibility of some sort of rented satellite TV or at least good radio in their apartment. I know it's harrowing, but on this long a visit they might appreciate a visit to Yad Vashem.

By the way, an increasing number of people I know who have grown children in Israel have now bought apartments there too. Maybe your parents are beginning to try that idea out in some way.

Posted by: Judy | Oct 6, 2006 12:49:14 AM

this is so wonderful, David.
our son has such a close relationship with his grandparents - he and his pop-pop now talk like old pals while hitting 18 at a local course. and now when he comes home from college, its his grandma's food he craves.
its a very special relationship. i am happy for your kids. (oh... and you too :)

Posted by: weese | Oct 6, 2006 3:06:00 AM

Aw - that's great! I'm so happy for that you'll all be able to spend so much time together... who knows, maybe your parents will even end up making aliyah themselves. :) Or at least turn the visits into a tradition.

Just wanted to add... I read your post below about Elroi and well... I just have to agree with everyone who said you should have put up a kleenex alert. What an amazing & courageous recovery ... and such a perfect way to capture the bittersweetness of yom kippur. I wish all the best to him and his family.

Posted by: Chantyshira | Oct 6, 2006 3:47:30 AM

That's such wonderful news! I'm so happy for your family! Reuniting with your loved ones is always a joy.

Posted by: Irina | Oct 6, 2006 5:26:21 AM

I'm so happy for you AND your parents! It's so important to have our kids know their grandparents and other relatives. My father lives with us (since his stroke eight years ago) and I'm so glad my boys get all this time with him.

Posted by: Tracey | Oct 6, 2006 7:07:35 AM

Ay, Di-s mio! No tenemos el Foto de Viernes! Sabado shalom!

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Oct 6, 2006 8:26:05 AM

what a touching post Trepp. Many people would not be so happy to have their parents come for an extended stay. It all sounds wonderful.

Posted by: cruisin-mom | Oct 6, 2006 3:54:50 PM

Sarah... You have no idea. If you had told me 10 years ago that my parents would be renting an apartment in Jerusalem... and keeping kosher!, I would have laughed you out of the room.

Simon... I was thinking of recommending that one as well. Thanks.

PP... So I shouldn't ring up your folks and give them any ideas? ;-)

Rachel... Good thought. I'll add it to the list.

Effe... Yes, I got it. I'm considering an appropriate post. Thanks.

Val... I'm sure there were a few places further from you they might have considered. :-)

pk... Only a few words. We're hoping to work on that.

marallyn... I'm hoping that while they're here they will find a property to buy that they can rent out for the summers and falls (the height of tourist season) and be near us for the winters and springs. A boy can dream, can't he?

Elisson.. To be clear, this visit has nothing to do with me. This is all about the grandkids. :-)

Fern... Yes, we're all aflutter. OK, maybe my sisters in NY/CT aren't so happy about it but they get them most of the time.

David S. ... I can see how Brooklyn would be a problem. ;-)

Nikki... I'll be interested to see how things work out with this trip as it could be a good thing for everyone.

Essie... When we lived in Connecticut we sort of took for granted having them so close. I promise we won't do that again.

Lisa (SF)... Please don't ever feel obligated to comment, or to apologize for not commenting. You have a full life over there. I love hearing from you but I understand that people have an off-line life as well. That being said, I really hope we get to see you on your upcoming trip!!!

a. ... I thought it might sound familiar. :-)

Kelly... Absolutely

Aliyah06... From your lips to G-d's ears.

Bubbyt... They have grand-kids in CT, NY and CA as well, so we have to be happy with what we can get. :-)

Max Power... What most people don't consider is that one can live quite nicely in Jerusalem on an American pension.

Drew... Thanks, I will print it out and read it in the morning.

Judy... Don't think we aren't going to try to talk to them about buying a place. :-) As to the Cable TV and cell phone ; already done.

Weese... This is going to be so good for everyone on so many levels. Thanks.

Chantyshira... Thanks. I don't know about aliyah, but I could see this becoming a tradition. Oh, and I'm glad you enjoyed the post about elroi. I always seem to forget that darned kleenex icon. :-)

Irina... Yes indeed.

Tracey... Our big kids have a wonderful relationship with my parents, but Yonah hasn't really gotten the chance to know them. Also, Ariella and Gilad are getting to be much more mature and I'm sure my parents still think of them as little kids. It will be good to see the relationship get to the next level.

DOcotr Bean... No se.

Cruisin' mom... One of my favorite sayings attributed to Mark twain is: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. " My parents have definitely gotten smarter over the years. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Oct 7, 2006 7:59:09 PM

My New Year's wish for you is certainly coming true! First Elroi Rafa'el's miracle, now your parents...May you have many more!

Posted by: Dina | Oct 9, 2006 12:31:04 AM

Yay!! How awesome!!

Posted by: Yael | Oct 9, 2006 1:20:09 PM

The opening of your post hit so close to home, David. As you may remember from some of our conversations over your excellent, freshly-ground coffee, my biggest obstacle in making aliyah is leaving behind family that will never make aliyah. My parents haven't been to Israel in over 30 years, and my brother in over 10 years. They may only be a 12 hour flight away, but that has proved a significant deterrent. Not all of us can count on the mountain coming to us. When I make aliyah, I will have to cope with the reality of only seeing my family (with whom I am extremely close) whenever I am capable of traveling to America.

I know you realize how lucky and blessed you are that your family is able and willing to travel to visit, let alone stay for 5 months in J'lem. I honestly can't imagine my family doing anything like that.

Btw, please send your parents my best, and pet the dogs for me.

Posted by: Cara | Oct 11, 2006 6:18:05 PM

As I write this, they must already be in Israel a few days now...how wonderful for all of you! Enjoy the time together...and I do hope it leads to an apartment purchase!

Though you are right that the difference between a six hour flight and a 12 hour one should not be a big deal, psychologically it sure is (and not just because of distance, but because of foreign country). And as parents get older, even physically....

Posted by: mcaryeh | Nov 5, 2006 6:10:59 AM

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