Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Carpool-Free Life in Israel

I didn’t raise my kids in the States for very long. They were only 4 and 2 when we made Aliyah, so I don’t have a huge point of reference for juggling kids' activities there. What I DO believe I have, however, is an ability to see the incredible differences in carpooling needs and extra curricular activities between the two countries.

I remember talking to a mother of six when we lived in Potomac and she told me that her four year old basically lived in the car. All afternoon she was out taking this kid to piano lessons and that kid to karate. And the four year old couldn’t stay home alone…so he spent hours schlepping along. I thought, at the time, how sad this was for all of them. And through the years, I’ve watched on Facebook as many of my friends in the States gear up for the carpool year ahead. There are charts, negotiations, discussions and hours of labor in order to fit the puzzle together.  


And then there is life in Israel. 

As I’ve worked, over the last two weeks, to piece together my children's school activities and after-school programs, I’ve marveled at the ease with which we do everything here. I don’t know if people outside of Israel can truly appreciate how hands-off and user-friendly our kids’ lives are.

Here are my examples. My school aged kids all take buses to and from school. 

Free buses.

My first two kids leaves the house at 7 and my second two leave at 7:15. I wave goodbye and off they go…my neighbors have even been known to snap pictures of them to show me how happy they are on their way to the bus. 
Here they are on their first day of school..walking to the bus


Then, I drive up the hill with Yakir and drop him in nursery school in our yishuv, and I’m on my way to work.

After school, they all return on their buses and walk home on their own. Their afternoon schedules are packed with activities. It’s like mobilizing a small army every day to complete a 1000 piece puzzle in record time. But, the brilliant thing about this 1000 piece puzzle is that it’s ALL completed in my yishuv, within a short walk from our house.

The wealth of talented people that we have Neve Daniel is utterly spellbinding, and the opportunities to enjoy enrichment programs amazing.  Two of my kids take art from a professional, commissioned artist. They walk two doors away to enjoy this privilege. 

Take off to space! Matan and Yehuda with recent art work.

One kid takes basketball, given one block away. Three take judo from a talented and patient black belt instructor.  Yep, they walk there. 
Eliav in his Judo outfit 


Now, one has decided that he wants some new activities this year, and he’s taking a math enrichment class and a full year of percussion instruction. The percussion class is taught by a professional musician who has an elaborate studio…you guessed it. Right in the yishuv. 

Amichai's first day of drums!

Finally, my child who is on the regional basketball team has practices in another yishuv, Alon Shvut. This is my only carpool. But it's only one way – they get a neighborhood bus home for the cost of $1 a trip.

It’s truly amazing. Until recently, about the only thing that you couldn’t accomplish in the yishuv was swimming lessons. But now a family has built a pool and there were lessons there all summer. It is hard to convey just how independent and self-sufficient our children learn to be from a young age. They get themselves to (and back from) almost every after school activity each day.

My car sits in front of my house all afternoon. 

It gets used to drive to the park. 

To drive to the library. 

To get ice cream. 

But for carpools and schlepping? Virtually never.

And this, my friends, is life in Israel.

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