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  • Writer's pictureJodi Samuels

Different Places Different Values

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

I cannot help but reflect on the differences between NY and Israel.

Many of you know our challenge to get our 2 year old with Down syndrome into a Jewish School. We have had a very public campaign and all our Israeli friends are fans on So everyone wants to know the update on her situation. The shock factor is amazing when they realize the main argument against including her is resources. They cannot comprehend how a school with 12 kids in a class and 3 teachers cannot accept Caily when she will come with state paid shadow. As my friend said at dinner, her daughter is in a preschool gan with 34 kids and 2 teachers and that’s a private gan in a high socio- economic area. This class also has a Down syndrome kid and an autistic kid. Regardless of the lack of resources, Israeli schools take these kids because they are valued as people.

The other crazy thing about NY is play dates. We had Israeli friends who lived in NY for 2 years on a job transfer. I asked the wife what she misses the most -definitely green grass, parks and playgrounds. Least – scheduling play dates 2 weeks in advance. Israeli kids play with local neighborhood kids and play dates are made while walking out if school.

Camp here is so different. I am paying for 6 days of camp a little more than the bus charge from NY to a NJ day camp. Israeli camps remind me of the camps I attended in South Africa. One word BASIC. We visited my kids camp in NJ and were awed by the indoor mini golf, gym, rock climbing and boating facilities and more. I was worried my kids would be comparing the camp experience in Israel. In fact they are having a great time, singing songs, playing games and making bracelets with cotton thread.

Anyone who has ever caught a bus in Israel know how people push and what squashed like sardines in a can is. They have these extra long buses with hundreds of people. What however always fascinates me is that someone will enter the bus on the back and pass 200 shekel note forward to pay for fare. The money will pass countless hands to the driver and the change then sent back to the right person. There was an incident that flawed me. A young kid maybe 8 years old boarded a bus near the market. He was carrying shopping bags plus a tray of 36 eggs. The bus driver drove Israeli style around the bend. Poor kid was standing, balancing all his wares and next thing he lurched forward and smash all 36 eggs. The same rude, crazy bus driver became the caring ‘abba’ and the passengers all pitched in to clean the very eggy mess.

Yesterday we had been out on hike and we struggled to get a cab back to the base. When we finally got in a cab my kids were hot and thirsty. I had half a bottle of ice tea and they were squabbling over sips. The taxi driver offered me a bottle of water. I politely declined and he insisted we take it. I will translate his exact quote “Lady I insist that your children drink, it is very hot and your children are my responsibility in my taxi” Now that would not happen in a NY….

This of course reminded me of another taxi experience. 2 years ago our flight was delayed and we arrived in Israel at 1am with no luggage. We were also too late to get the keys where we were staying. I was overwhelmed with frustration in the taxi and started crying. The taxi driver who was obviously listening to our conversation interjected and said, “Giveret (lady), please don’t cry. You and your family can sleep at my house. Your children can wear my children’s pajamas. Don’t be upset.” Can you imagine THAT happening in New York? Never!!

Originally published: July 18, 2010


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