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The good, the bad and the fantastic: 65 surprising things about parenting in Israel

With a little crowd-sourced help, here's all that's good, bad and fantastic about raising kids in the Jewish State
(illustrative photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
(illustrative photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/51/IndepedenceDayDecorations001.jpg/512px-IndepedenceDayDecorations001.jpgWhether you made aliyah before or after you had kids, you’ve most likely been pleasantly or rudely surprised by parenting norms here in Israel.

In honor of Israel’s 65th anniversary, I asked immigrant parents to share their experiences — whether exasperating or inspiring — about raising children in our wonderful country.


  1. Getting a check from the National Insurance Institute in the hospital after birth. (HK)
  2. Secular kids getting excited about holidays most unaffiliated Jews abroad have never heard of, like Shavuot. (Shari)
  3. New mothers who go to stay with their own mothers for two weeks after birth, and how you wish you had that option. (HK)
  4. How genuinely excited everyone is to hear about your new baby, even strangers. (Miriam J.)
  5. Being asked by a stranger to hold her newborn in the park so she could help her 2-year-old go and pee. (HK)
  6. Kids in gan making packages for soldiers. (HK)
  7. The excellent services for kids with special needs. (Deborah)
  8. Teaching children about the Holocaust from when they are 3 or 4 years old. (HK)
  9. How all the kids share snacks at the park. (Yehudit)
  10. The ritmikait (organist) and bizarre holiday/end-of-year pageants in gan. (Chaya)
  11. How much love and attention my kids receive in overpacked ganim. (Chaya)
  12. Strangers on the bus try to entertain my son. And there’s no way I could travel alone with a child to the US without all of the savtas (grandmothers) on the airplane! (Allyson)
  13. Instantly making friends with the only other Anglo mother in your kid’s class. (HK)
  14. The popularity of obscure baby names like Nehorai. (HK)
  15. School and gan six days a week. (Hannah B.)
  16. How little babysitters charge. I got paid 3 times as much as a teen. (Allyson)
  17. Everyone wants to help by lifting strollers and picking up whatever falls on the ground. (Raya)
  18. I am from the UK, where nobody would dare touch or even talk to my baby. Here, complete strangers often just stroke her face, hold her hands etc. I used to cringe and just want to get their hands away from her, but now I’m used to it and love the freedom Israelis have. (Abigail)
  19. The AMAZING health care system for kids, including IVF. (Becky)
  20. Child-friendly service: Parents with children went to a shorter line, in the misrad hapnim (interior ministry) no less! (Mushkie)
  21. Quiet time between 2 and 4 PM. (Yari)
  22. Tipat Chalav, instead of a medical clinic, for well-baby visits. (Yari)
  23. You can take your baby or young child to a wedding, or lehavdil a shiva. Not only is it acceptable, it’s welcomed. (Chaya)
  24. Teenage boys playing with my babies while standing on line. (Malkie)
  25. No such thing as a nut-free zone. (They must be doing something right.) (Rochel)
  26. Getting only positive comments on our family size here, whereas in the States “you must be busy” is about the nicest thing I hear. (Amanda E.), and People don’t ask if you are going to get your tubes tied after kid number 4. My sister asked me that. (Amanda)


  1. The weird eating schedule. I feel like my kids are eating all day long: Bowl of cereal in the morning, ‘aruchat esser‘ (10 am sandwich), lunch around 2-3pm, dinner.  Give me my 3 squares at 8 am, noon and 6 pm! (Julie)
  2. The amount of conflicting information that everyone gives you when you leave the house. It’s constant, non-stop, inaccurate and follows you everywhere. Here’s the advice I was given only yesterday:
  • Your daughter is suffocating in the front pack
  • Holding your daughter in the front pack is bad for her hips
  • You’ll need physical therapy. Women’s bodies are not meant for carrying babies
  • Do you want to get a hernia from carrying in the front pack?
  • Your daughter isn’t dressed warmly enough.
  • Your daughter is wearing too many layers
  • Put shoes on your baby, glass can go through socks
  • Don’t buy babies shoes until they are two.
  • Don’t put your baby on the ground. Their bodies can’t handle the germs.
  • Babies need a kilo of dirt a year to strengthen their immune system.
  • Why haven’t you blended the baby’s food?
  • You shouldn’t spoon-feed babies. (Kalanit)
  • Being referred to as ima shel (mother of). (Shoshana)
  1. Chocolate spread is a suitable sandwich. (Chava)
  2. Other kids heading out to the park as mine are putting on pajamas. (Shoshana)
  3. Children urinating in public, as in NOT behind a bush! (Yari)
  4. When a friend comes over for my daughter, she often brings 1-3 siblings along with her. No advance notice. (Julie)
  5. The nationwide obsession with shoving bamba/pretzels/choco into the mouths of kids under 2 or 3 yrs. (Becky)
  6. How much I would miss things from my own childhood, and want those experiences for my son (Jane)
  7. Picking kids up on chairs at their simchas from toddlerhood. (Chana)
  8. Training kids to sit through tedious non-religious tekassim (ceremonies) from an early age. It’s like they’re learning to “do” a UJA luncheon. Hilarious. (Chana)
  9. The constant school events. (Deborah)
  10. Having to do art projects with your kids at said school events. (HK)
  11. Seeing 6-year-olds pushing a baby in a stroller and holding a toddler’s hand at the same time. (Rochel)
  12. “Gibush”. I always assumed gibush was what you needed if you were in a combat unit and had to conquer an enemy outpost, but no. Here, from the pagiyah (NICU) to the beit avot (old age home), you’ve got to have gibush. Gibush is like za’atar, it goes with everything. (Chana)
  13. Little kids waiting at the corner and asking me to walk them across the street. (Rochel)
  14. People assume that it is BEST for kids to be in mishpachton (family day care) or gan, while in the US they assume it’s best for moms to stay home with their kids. (Maya)
  15. How parents get freaked out by lice, but rubella and chicken pox are no big deal. (Yari)
  16. Lack of awareness about food allergies and chronic illness. (Robyn)
  17. Paying twice to bring a stroller on the bus. (Aviva)
  18. Everybody knows better than you, not just how to raise your kids but when to have the next one, why you should have started earlier/later why they are dressed wrong, when you should breastfeed, how you should breastfeed, why the mush you feed them is wrong, why they are sitting/lying/being held wrong. And then as soon as they turn 2 no one pays a blind bit of interest. (Katie)
  19. My 10-year-old neighbor running camp for my kids during vacation. No complaints there! (Chaya)
  20. Having to get up and go to the dining room during your hospital stay after birth. (HK)
  21. Purim lasting three days to a week . . . too much for me. (Peninah)
  22. When something says “choking hazard, not for children under 5” is just a suggestion and it’s okay to have a whole party for Tu B’Shvat for 3-year-olds made up of things that are choking hazards. (Chloe)
  23. Bottles till age 4? More? Pacifiers till age 3+? 4+? 5+? (Tsipi) . . .
  24. . . . but they are all toilet trained by 2! (Channa)  (Or not.)
  25. Your kids’ friends stay at your house till 7:30 PM without the parents calling to ask where they are. (HK)
  26. Getting “homework” that the kids can’t possibly do by themselves, and the way parents do their kids’ homework for them.  (Deborah)
  27. Kids calling adults by their first names. (Risa)
  28. Vacation on Lag Baomer (two days this year) and isru chag (day after some holidays) . (HK)
  29. Kids dancing next to an open flame at Chanuka parties. (Karyn)
  30. How much I’d miss having my family around and how guilty I’d feel at not giving my parents and sisters the opportunity to be a part of his everyday life. (Lara)


  1. Random parents in the playground look out for your child, whether or not they know you. (Josie)
  2. Nursing my daughter pretty much everywhere the only reactions I got from anyone were smiles. (Rochel)
  3. How easy it is to go out (like restaurants and museums, not just “family friendly” places) with kids. I have tried doing the same abroad and it was much harder (no child seats, no other kids in restaurant, etc.) (Benedetta)
  4. Being awed by the many teenagers who are involved in youth groups. Devoting their time to younger kids. And especially the tenderness and patience I’ve seen in teenage boys for little boys. It strikes me every time I see it. (Esti)
  5. The way my child is really ‘seen’ here by the people he meets in his life, the bus driver, the taxi driver, the corner store guy, waitress, the butcher, everyone looks in his eyes and says hello , asks how he is and often offers him a “ten kif” (high 5). In Oz, people hardly acknowledged he existed. (Nayana)
  6. Went to take a test in college and the woman supervising assured me she will hold and calm the baby if she cries while I am writing the test. She was amazing. (Ephrat)

Thanks to members of Facebook groups Brand New Mamas and Israeli Babies, my friends, and fans of the page A Mother in Israel, for their contributions.

Happy 65th, Israel! May we live to see many more children grow up here in peace and freedom.

Image: MathKnight and Zachi Evenor via Wikimedia

About the Author
Hannah Katsman is an Israeli lactation consultant and writer. Her work on parenting, public health, women’s rights and sex abuse has appeared in The Forward, Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post and Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and on her websites AMotherInIsrael.com and CookingManager.com.
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