Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Compare and Contrast

Remember in school when you got those assignments [which you hated - oh, was that just me?] asking you to "compare and contrast" things?  Well, that's what we've been doing in Ulpan, and some of the discussions have been eye-opening - for our teacher. 

We started with a yawn yawn compare/contrast of the Dead Sea and the Kineret - you know, one salty, one not, one below sea level, one above, one filled with flowers, wildlife, one not, yada yada yada.  

Then our teacher handed out a sheet of about 10 topics relating to life in Israel as opposed to life in our birthplaces.  Topics such as the character of the people, the quality of the education, the standard of living, etc.  At first I don't think any of us was too interested but boy did we get into some good discussions.

The most fascinating part of this was teaching our teacher about life in America. 

For example here are some of her reactions:

1. Health care - you have to pay WHAT?  How often?  No, can't be.  You are exaggerating!  But it includes medicine, right?  NO?  Come on! 

2. Military service - you mean almost no Jews are in the armed services?  Really?  But don't you HAVE to do SOMETHING for the military?  Nothing?

3. Character of the people - People wait patiently in line? Drivers [she laughed at this] let someone pull in front of them and then the other person WAVES THANK YOU???  There are places where you can't HONK?  People in Russia are so polite that they speak to you in the third peson?  People in the US do not tell you (even - or especially - if they don't know you ) what they think about your life and what you should do with it?  How strange.....

4. Climate - (I mean what can you say.  Especially in mid-July our teacher was not going to defend Israel's climate.  She did, however, look quite wistful when the student who grew up in California described the year-round moderate temperatures there...).  We did all agree, though, that nothing is quite as gorgeous as Israel in the spring (I guess because winter is so lousy).

5. Level of education - people pay WHAT for religious education?! For college?  Is that figure in shekel or dollar?

6. Attitude toward immigrants - people in the US need laws forcing them to accept immigrants into the country?  They assume all immigrants are potential criminals and at the very least job-stealers?  They DON'T give new immigrants money to help them adjust? How rude!
Needless to say, Israel comes out looking pretty darn good in most categories.

And all of us students were happy to talk about the good and bad of our birthplaces and how life in Israel compares. 

In the end, though, the biggest difference for each of us was in the area of the life of a Jew.  Although the students from Russia and South Africa had the scary and sad stories, even those of us from the US talked about the stark difference of living there and living in Israel.

I mean, come on, we're home.  There is no place like it.

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