It was only until after I came on Aliyah with my family nearly ten years ago and after settling down did I realize that I live in a bubble. A hard concept to imagine, but coming from Kew Gardens Hills, NY, I thought it was there that I dwelled in a happy bubble. Yet, that was not the case. Now being one of the “Anglo’im”, I have come to grips with the fact that we live in a small world of our own. If you are an Anglo and live in Israel, no matter how long you’ve lived here, in all likelihood, you interact, befriend and socialize primarily with other Anglos as well. You may make some Israeli friends here and there, and in more rare instances, you befriend South Americans, French, Russians, Ethiopians as well as other Jews from the Diaspora. But by and large, your circles consist primarily of Anglos. The only exotic Anglos you know (if you are a ‘Yank’ like me) are those from the UK, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand.
Our purpose as olim is to integrate into Israeli society – to become Israelis. Yet, from what I see, people tend to cling onto their native cultures. Language and accent, being the major barrier between Anglos and Israelis, is one of the greatest obstacles which divides our communities to mainstream Israelis. This is true in all sets and subsets of the religious and non-religous oleh communities in the country.
What is striking though, in religious communities throughout the country where many Anglos now call home, English is the common language found throughout these cities. English postings clutter community bulletin boards in shops and libraries; English lectures in public places; English ganei yeladim and now they’re opening up an acreditied Yeshiva High School for boys in Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem which is for English speakers only.
Though it defeats the entire purpose of aliyah and klita (immigration and absorption), the purpose of opening this school is to address a need that is great in the Anglo communities where young teenagers have been having a very difficult time adjusting to the Israeli yeshiva system. Most of these youngsters either had difficulties adjusting to the Israeli school system, be it socially or communicatively. However the question arises, how is this going to help them in the long run? Furthermore, many boys ending up at this Yeshiva will attend because they want to be in an English environment and not necessarily because they merely didn’t “fit in”. In the long run, these boys will not really be able to function in Israeli society, (including the IDF) and in essence, they are being taught and bred to live outside of Israel.
Ironic, though many, if not most religious Anglo communities in Israel have come on aliyah because of their religious convictions, the establishment of this Yeshiva can facilitate yeridah (moving from Israel). Though I’m sure that there are students who, plain and simple have a serious problem learning and living in a foriegn language, there are most, who with help, can overcome this obstacle and mainstream into young Israeli society. In the short run, since many of these students socialize exclusively with their fellow Anglos, it even adds a new barrier between themselves and Israeli society.
For those of us who grew up in the diaspora, many of us lived on the other side of an invisible wall that divided us and the Gentile world, as it has been for many centuries. Friendships and social relationships were maintained at an arms-length distance, especially amongst the orthodox communities. Assimilation has been a huge “no-no” and the secular societies were to remain off limits.
How can this be so in Israel when the concept of absorption has a much sweeter taste than assimilation?