Home August 2014 Walking to School

Walking to School

The scene of children walking to school in the morning is part of my idyllic American landscape. The children of the community fill the streets in the morning, and then again in the afternoon, as they walk, run, shove, push and laugh their way to and from school. But a lot of American Jewish kids aren’t in this picture. They are the ones who go to Jewish schools—schools that are usually located beyond walking distance for most students, schools that have unusually long school days and an unusual school calendar.
Aliyah is the normalization of Jewish life. You become part of a society where the weekend begins on Thursday night, where the December holiday is Chanukah and where the New Year is ushered in with apples dipped in honey. Part of this normalization of Jewish life includes the educational system. In America, providing your child with a quality Jewish education means sending that child to a day school, and this usually means having to pay hefty tuition bills and having to take your turn on the carpool line. In Israel, there is a public religious stream of education and a public secular one. The public religious primary school of Givat Ze’ev is a seven-minute walk from our home.
Years back, when my kids were still in primary school, there was a teachers’ strike at the beginning of the school year. Since my kids’ religious school was in the regular public system, their school was affected. Every day for a week it was touch and go.  You got up in the morning, listened to the 6 a.m. newscast, and found out if you needed to wake the kids for school. The whole country was at wits’ end by the end of that week. But I was secretly glad that my kids didn’t go to one of the alternative, private religious schools that were not striking. It was great to be part of something bigger than you, even if in this case that something was a collective anxiety.
How normal to have a teachers’ strike (although perhaps a bit too normal here). It’s part of a package deal: a deal where kids grow up thinking that it’s normal to study Rashi’s commentary, Jewish law and Talmud in public school. The kids, in fact, see nothing out of the ordinary in walking to their public school and in studying these subjects—which, for Jewish kids, is as normal as it should be.

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