I know for a fact that there are Israelis who think I’m crazy for choosing to leave the United States to live in Israel – I know it because they tell me. Repeatedly. It’s not all Israelis or even most, but those who do have a tendency to question my sanity for reaching such a decision. They aren’t interested in hearing about my former identity as a Diaspora Zionist or my pro-Israel campus activism. They’re not impressed that I fell in love with the country when I was just fifteen years old, vowing on that first trip that I would someday move here (much to the chagrin of my parents who, more than 30 years later, are still hoping it’s merely a phase). The bottom line is that everyone wants to know how I could choose to leave a country where the salaries are higher and the living is easy.
Sometimes, I wonder the same thing. I’ve lived here for more than twenty years and have no plans to leave. I do, however, occasionally fantasize about having a life that’s financially easier, a life where I don’t feel compelled to make professional compromises that enable me to take my son to visit his grandparents in America once a year and pay for his Waldorf education. Of course, with the amount of money we save by purchasing Legos in the US, the trip practically pays for itself, but still…
But I digress. What about that Waldorf education? I honestly don’t know how people with two or more children in the system can afford it, especially on an average Israeli salary. Obviously, we each have our own set of priorities. Those of us who choose Waldorf clearly place a lot of importance on our children receiving an education that meshes with our values and world view, but in practical terms, how do we do it? How do we make it to the end of each month with a few extra shekels in the bank, or at least without feeling like we’re permanently chasing after that ever-elusive state of stability? I know that many of us probably receive assistance from our parents and that most of us juggle our finances in order to make ends meet, but wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to do quite so much juggling? Wouldn’t it be great if everyone who wanted to send their children to a Waldorf school didn’t have to worry about having to scrape together the necessary funds in order to do so?
I will admit to being somewhat envious of those who manage to make a decent living by doing work they love. Even though our income allows us to send our son to Rimon, it still feels like my soul is gradually being sucked away with each passing year that I continue to work in the hi-tech sector, despite the fact that I’m lucky enough to work for a family-friendly company less than 30 minutes from home with a generous telecommuting policy. It’s still hi-tech, though, and it’s often a struggle to find a good work-life balance. As a mom I feel torn. I feel fortunate that my husband’s schedule is flexible enough to be with our son most afternoons, but I still feel like I’m missing out and shirking my parental responsibilities. And, if I’m being really honest with myself, one of the last things I feel like doing after a long day at the office writing technical documentation is covering yet another notebook (In the event that my son’s class teacher is reading this, I’m kidding, of course. I love covering notebooks…).
Like several other parents I know in the hi-tech sector, I feel trapped, unable to move into a different field because I simply can’t afford to do so. It seems that interesting, emotionally satisfying writing positions and decent wages tend to be mutually exclusive of one another, so if I want to send my son to a Waldorf school, enable him to participate in after-school activities and be able to take him to the US once a year – and do it all without being in a perpetual state of whimper-inducing overdraft, I need to keep doing what I’m doing.
Sometimes, I think I must be nuts. I get to spend my days with some pretty amazing people, tackling my relatively easy commute in a company leasing car and chatting with my friends on my company smartphone while I drive. The coffee is good and plentiful, and it wouldn’t surprise me if “Atza” in Ramat Yishai started to send me personalized greetings that reflect the nature of our relationship, given how frequently I order my lunch from there. On the face of it, it sounds great, doesn’t it? Stability, good working conditions and perks… I really can’t complain. And yet, despite all of that, I know in my heart that I don’t really belong in this industry. But when everything in this country is just so expensive and we also have to pay private school tuition fees, I think that I’d have to be a selfish fool to follow my heart and deprive my family of an income that makes our lives easier.
So how do we ease the burden? How do we reach the point where everyone who wants to join the Waldorf system can do so, and those of us already inside won’t have to make sacrifices to stay? Like so many of my friends and fellow members of the Israeli Waldorf community, I was overjoyed to see Education Minister Shai Piron show an interest in and appreciation for Waldorf education. Watching Rimon struggle to create its new home in Pardes Hannah has been exhausting, and Minister Piron’s expression of support provided a much needed dose of optimism to our weary souls. Now if only he’d bring a similar dose of support and optimism for our weary bank accounts, we’d be all set.
This entry was posted in Daily life, Education, Family, Israeliness, Parenting, Self-Reflection and tagged Education, finances, Israel, Lego, parenting, Rimon, Shai Piron, Waldorf, Work, Writing by Liza Rosenberg