On Their Own?

In the 1920s when a group of talmidim of the Alter of Slabodka, zt”l, arrived in Eretz Yisrael to establish a yeshivah in Chevron, the old yishuv Yidden in Yerushalayim looked askance at the clean-shaven yeshivah bachurim, attired in European fashion, and wondered, “These are yeshivah bachurim?”

When Orthodox German Jews, descendants of Harav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, zt”l, escaped from Germany when the Nazis rose to power and arrived in Israel, firm in their faith and hashkafah, sporting their goatees and bow ties, the local Jews wondered, “These people are frum?”

This attitude of judging a book by its cover repeats itself in various ways in Israel today.

Olim chadashim feel that they are not appreciated for their struggles and efforts to make aliyah.

The recent elections in Israel highlighted this issue and once again brought up the questions: Are olim chadashim accepted and appreciated? Do they have a voice? Do they do enough to adjust well in their new country?

People wrote to us and called with comments, but nobody agreed to be quoted by name. Among the comments we received were, “Nobody wants to help us. Nobody represents us. They think of us as more modern. They want to put us in straitjackets. Our children are not accepted into their schools.”

In a feature that appears on page A6 we touched only the tip of the iceberg. The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle. The picture is not black and white; there is a lot of gray in between.

It is true that the olim have a problem with their school-age children. This is an issue that must be addressed. It is not true that no one wants to help them. From the little bit of research that we did, we found that many of them were being helped. Nobody guarantees success, but even if the process is grueling at times, if you allow yourself to be helped, you stand a chance.

The arguments are endless. There is truth to the fact that when families with children make aliyah, they can expect different challenges and issues to arise. The same, however, would apply any time and in any place when a family decides to relocate. This is not specifically an Israel-related problem.

It is also true that many of those who make aliyah are a completely different breed than the chareidim in Israel.  Arriving together with friends and acquaintances and settling in an established community with people who are the same type certainly makes the adjustment easier.

Aliyah does not work magic. Success can only be achieved through hard work and perseverance. True, it is a struggle, but beautiful things happen to people who are ready to struggle.