It happens quite often, on a city bus, a mother asks me to hold her baby while she goes and pays the bus fee to the driver. It feels good to hold a cute baby. The mother comes back, like it was the most natural thing to do. Israel is family!
Have you ever seen a person fall down in the streets and being left alone to get up? It does not happen. There are always people to help them up and give them water to drink. Israel is very family oriented, which means, sticking up for each other, even strangers. On the other hand, like in a family, you might be told off “that little kid doesn’t have a hat, put something warm on.”
Jews have always appreciated the importance of family. It is noticeable in all walks of life, also in the army. When sons and daughters begin military service at the age of 18, family becomes even more important. At a time when they usually grow more independent, away from the family, Israeli soldiers keep very close contact with the family, especially the mother. They are not shy about it either. On Friday afternoon, soldiers can be seen walking with flowers in their hands. I ask them “beautiful flowers, who are they for? It’s Shabbat flowers for my ima” they anwser. It makes it even more beautiful when it is for the mother. Kate Hopkins, a British media personality and newspaper columnist, visited Israel recently and had the opportunity to go to a ceremony where the new recruits in the Air Force got their wings. She was interviewed afterwards and said on Israeli TV “Everybody came back in tears, because it is so your country. Everybody has such pride in the military and the family. We don’t have that. So much respect for the family, especially the mother.”
Yes, Israel is very family oriented and children are welcome, pretty much everywhere. The Jewish Policy Center states that “the Jewish State’s population characteristics stand out as unique in the developed world. The stronger the Jewish commitment, the more likely Jews are to have more children. The fertility in the State of Israel is unique among the nations and a cause for optimism about the future.” Children are highly valued not only to parents, but by the society. The welfare of children is considered a collective responsibility. – Once, we came in to a restaurant with our daughter and her 6- month old baby. Immediately upon entering, the owner of the restaurant took the baby in his arms and started to walk around in the restaurant. Meanwhile, the mother ate her meal in peace and quiet.
Also, the older generation have a major significance in Jewish tradition. We have Shabbat meals together, bonding with at least some of the children every week. Israel is a small country and it permits close and frequent personal contact with relatives. Holidays and life-cycle events are celebrated with ceremonies that bring family members together
A passenger on a long-distance bus ride in Israel, told how the bus was already full with people, when a mother with five small children got on. The children were all tired and crying, the mother looked even more tired. There were no places for all of them to sit, so they stood in the isle, children still sobbing, trying to make the best of the situation. After only a minute, a soldier came forward and offered his place to the mother, a young girl came up to them and offered to take a child in her lap. One by one the passengers offered their help, until the mother and all her children were seated. It did not take long until the children were sleeping in the laps of strangers. Quiet was returned to the bus. Israel is truly family!