Our Aliyah Chronicle
By Shmuel Katz
With each passing year, we acclimate just a bit more. We have begun to realize that we are not just acclimating to our new surroundings, but that our old surroundings have become more and more unfamiliar to us over time as well. We live in a weird limbo at times; not quite Israeli, yet no longer typical Americans.
Israelis will always call us Americans no matter how well we adjust. Our speaking accents, mannerisms, and many of our attitudes are simply too ingrained to completely change over. The little differences that set us apart will always be there; the big differences continue to disappear.
I noticed one of those differences this week when I heard about some kids leaving to go to summer camp in the U.S. It seems too early for camp to begin. School is still in session and continues through the end of the month.
Even all the graduation notices and e‑mails did not strike me as strange or untimely. Our Aliza graduated from high school two weeks ago and Mordechai graduated from sixth grade (the school he is in goes through six and they go to middle/high school 7–12) earlier this week. So we are in balance there.
I had forgotten the two-to-three week extra period we have at the end of the school year. We will start school again for the final week of August, making the chofesh ha’gadol (big vacation) last only seven weeks or so (there is a push to shorten even this time and extend the school year).
So when people started talking about kids going up to camp, we were perplexed. “Why would the camps start so early?” we wondered, not realizing that our internal calendars have apparently totally adjusted to our surroundings.
Even the camp sessions/styles are different here. Private day camps are almost always based in someone’s backyard. There might be a wading pool, but probably not. The kids will often hike to a local park for some sports time and lunches are rarely provided.
Schools run semi-camps. They have what is called chodesh nosaf where they will have some regular classroom learning by teachers and then extended sports/fun activities and several field trips. There is no such thing as a day camp that runs on a campus somewhere, with swimming, etc. (it did exist when we first moved here, but closed a few years ago).
Sleepaway camps run for a maximum of three weeks. Some are shorter. They usually run during the month of July (as do the day camps). Some of the day camps have extended sessions into the month of August. But, for the most part, even though school starts the last week of August and we also have a much shorter summer vacation than you do in the U.S., we still have 10 days to two weeks in which the kids simply have nothing to do.
For working parents who are unable to schedule a vacation in this time period, there are few choices and many kids are left to their own devices toward the end of the summer. Which is probably not the best thing.
Thankfully for us, Goldie has been working from the house. So she can be there for the kids. It certainly makes it harder to work, but the other choices are much worse.
With our upcoming move (we might have found a potential place to move to), having the kids home will be a mixed blessing. They will be in camp and are not going to be hanging around the house for the weeks preceding the move. However, they will help us pack until camp begins and can be helpful in doing a lot of the unpacking once camp ends and they are home all day.
This year, once they are done with that, I am sure that there will be extra work for them in Modiin. Opening a new yeshiva takes a bunch of work. Building beds, arranging rooms, setting up the beit midrash, setting up all the sefarim and the yeshiva building—all these things need to get done in the first couple of weeks in August. So we will take all the help we can get. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a gap-year yeshiva opening this year. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.