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June 30, 1995 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-06-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

their families. Several com-
plained about academic strug-
gles and social tribulations.
"For independence-starved
teen-agers accustomed to
American urban violence, it's
the freedom of unrestricted
movement they love most," the
article reads. "For others, how-
ever, aliyah remains an error,
a disruption ... They cite the
daunting prospect of 'doing'
high school in Hebrew, the cul-
ture gap, the Israeli kids with
their puerile sense of humor
and macho moves, and the
army countdown among other
factors."

urt (Dov) Levy took a few
steps beyond fantasy
when he moved from
metro Detroit to Mary-
land, and then to Jerusalem,
about 15 years ago.
Locally, he worked for the
Anti-Defamation League and
Michigan Civil Rights Com-
mission. He taught political sci-
ence at Wayne State University
between 1969 and 1972 and, in
Maryland, held a high position
with the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency.
Mr. Levy's love affair with Is-
rael began in the 1950s, when
he visited the infant nation as
a 21-year-old with the U.S. Air
Force. Impressed with Israel's
openness and pioneer spirit, he
vowed he'd be back.

B

It took a while. He married
in 1959, raised a family and
built his career. In the 1970s,
he and his wife separated and
several years later, after bypass
surgery, Mr. Levy retired.
'When you have a life-threat-
ening illness, you take stock of
where you are and who you
are," he says.
Doctors had warned Mr.
Levy about the stress of life on
the East Coast. Better that he
should recuperate in a quiet en-
vironment, perhaps on a kib-
butz, they said. So, at age 47,
Mr. Levy returned "home,"
alone to Israel. He taught part-

evening, he and a few North
Carolinian friends decided to
do something Jewish. They
found themselves taking an Is-
raeli dance lesson in the base-
ment of a Conservative
synagogue in Durham.
"We were five, middle-aged
men stepping to music from a
squeaky cassette player. I said
to myself, 'If this is what I have
to do to be Jewish in America,
I really need to get back to Is-
rael.' "
Shortly thereafter, he
crossed the Atlantic, eastward.
Israeli music also played a
role in the life of Mr. Levy's
daughter. During her
first trip to Israel,
Elizabeth was a typi-
cal boy-crazy teen
who kept an eye on
JEFF KAYE POINTS the "good-looking
men in tight uni-
forms."
TO CATS. STRAY
The land of dark
CATS. DIRTY CATS. hair and tanned
limbs brought her
TEL AVIV CATS
back in 1979 as a col-
lege student studying
THAT ARE BOUND
for one year at He-
brew University. She
TO RUMMAGE
couldn't shake the ex-
perience. When she
THROUGH YOUR
returned to America,
Ms. Levy only want-
GARBAGE. "CAN
ed to play Israeli mu-
YOU LIVE WITH
sic, eat humus and
pita, and converse
THAT?" HE ASKS.
with friends in He-
brew.
Little wonder, like
her father, she re-
turned.
Ms. Levy made
time at a university and gar- aliyah as a single woman in
dened on Kibbutz Afek, not far 1982. Like many olim, she
stayed in an absorption center,
from Haifa.
Planting oranges, grapefruit a highly subsidized haven for
and avocados was perfect for a new immigrants. Daytime
man who needed exercise and found her volunteering at a
fresh air. The problem was He- health clinic. At night, she
brew. For a highly educated earned decent money as a tele-
professional, the inability to ar- phone operator for a large ho-
ticulate — eloquently, as before tel.
— became a source of frustra-
It didn't take long for Ms.
Levy to grow accustomed to the
tion.
"You know, when you get pushiness, the chutzpah, the
older, it gets harder," says his brashness common among
daughter, Elizabeth.
Sabras. Are they rude, or just
But, if ever there were crys- direct? It's an oft-asked ques-
tal-clear moments of affirma- tion. Ms. Levy didn't care. The
tion, they came during a trip stereotypical attitudes didn't
back to the States 10 years ago. bother her. Neither did the rus-
Mr. Levy was serving as guest tic lifestyle.
professor at a North Carolina
"When you move here, you
university. One weekend either love it or you don't," Ms.

Levy says. "When I came, not
everyone had a car. I rode my
bike everywhere at first. Prac-
tically no one had all the lux-
uries of everyday life, like
washers and dryers."
At an Israeli dance lesson
one night, Ms. Levy met Avi
Levy (they shared last names),
dark and no doubt gorgeous in
military garb. They married
and currently reside in the
Jerusalem suburb called
Mevassaret with their two chil-
dren, Jenny, 5, and Mickey, 7.
Little by little, Ms. Levy's
Hebrew has improved. During
her one-year stint at Hebrew
University during the 1970s,
she enrolled in ulpan, an in-
tense language program de-
signed for quick fluency. She
mastered the grammar, grad-
ually built up her vocabulary,
but the all-telling moment oc-
curred when she began talking
Hebrew in her sleep.
The evolution of Ms. Levy's
life in many ways parallels the
transformation of a nation. To-
day, she can serve the children
Cheerios cereal for breakfast,
grab a coffee en route to work
and tune into Oprah on cable,
although a 27-inch television
costs the equivalent of two-
month's salary.
"Everything is a fortune, and
everyone has an overdraft at
the bank," Ms. Levy says. "We
drive an 11-year-old car. We
don't eat out a lot. I don't buy a
lot of clothing. I don't spend a
lot of time shopping at the mall.
But go into my kids' rooms.
They look like Toys-R-Us."
Despite the modernization of
an ancient land, some basic val-
ues, for now, seem to be stay-
ing intact. The Levys say unity
is paramount. So is safety. The
adults think nothing of send-
ing their children down the
road to a corner market, or let-
ting them play outside at night.
But there is another danger.
The army. By law, all 18-year-
olds must serve. Men for three
years. Women for a bit less.
"I try not to think about it,"
Ms. Levy says. "I often tell
Mickey he can be in intelligence
or in the PX, the army store.
The fact is, every mother tells
her child the same thing, and
every child does exactly what
he wants to do."
The pressure is ubiquitous.

Ask Israelis why so many of
them chain-smoke and they'll
likely blame the habit on
nerves — and the Israel De-
fense Forces.
That's life. That's just part of
being a Jew surrounded by his-
torically hostile neighbors, they
say. Everyone knows someone
who died fighting. No one
knows who'll be next. The un-
certainty has fostered a blatant
live-for-today mentality among
many Israelis. It's apparent in
their open attitudes toward sex
and dating. It's evident in their
spending habits. Bounced
checks are no big deal. Banks
just charge interest and bor-
rowers try to pay back, month
to month.
Saving money? Unlike smok-
ing, it's not a regular habit.
Jonathan Sarna, professor of
American Jewish history at
Brandeis University, was a
guest professor in Israel for two
years during the mid-1980s. He
noted that people from the
States, including himself, were
troubled by the norms of Is-
rael's inflationary, semi-social-
ist economy.
"I think the socialist safety
net has encouraged a level of
living at the edge, which didn't
happen in America," he says.
"Many Americans can't sleep
with unpaid bills."
rofessor Sarna believes
immigration is largely
the product of push-and-
pull factors.
Prior to the 1903 and 1905
Kishinev pogroms — riots that
killed, wounded and displaced
hundreds of Russian Jews — it
was America's promise of
wealth that pulled immigrants
westward. Those who failed at
fortune, often returned to Rus-
sia, disillusioned and penniless.
"The average person knows
the story of someone who came
to America, but went back and
maybe came again later," Pro-
fessor Sarna says.
The second try often took
place not for riches, but sur-
vival. Push factors — anti-
Semitism, war and raids —
incited Jews to flee.
"As conditions got worse, you
didn't go back, no matter how
bad things got in America," he
says.
For Jews making aliyah

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