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Totally Different Expectations

By Batya Medad
12/17/2007, 12:00 AM

Recently I went to a lecture by someone who was raised in one of the most extreme, restrictive, of the Chassidishe Courts.  He described a world so different from anything I could imagine.

Every small detail was regimented, and they were, and are to this day, never allowed to make choices, think for themselves.  All of their clothing, from their hats to their shoes had to be according to their rules.  But what shocked the audience the most, was the marriage customs.  When the marriage broker thought there was a possible match, and the parents agreed to it, the two young people were allowed to glance at each other a few minutes and then had to give their agreement.  They didn't meet again, nor communicate in any way, until the yichud room, where the couple goes after the ceremony for their first time alone.

He had no idea whom he was marrying, besides the fact that his Rebbe and parents and society approved.  If he had passed her on the street between the engagement and the wedding, he wouldn't have recognized her, but then again, he was trained to keep his eyes off of women.  He did what he was expected to do.  As they got used to the arrangement, the marriage was no worse than any in the "freer world."  It was probably even better, since their expectations were simpler and more pragmatic.  Their marriage only ended when he insisted on leaving their Chassidishe life, and she wasn't willing.

Now to something very different but similar.  I've never been able to relate to the concept of "trying out aliyah."  Once I decided that I was making aliyah, moving to Israel, that was it.  I never added conditions to it.  I had no idea what was awaiting me.

We got married, got on the boat, docked, made our way to Jerusalem and moved into the Maon Betar, in the Old City.  I washed our laundry in the bathtub and hung it out to dry on this balcony, until a roof was built over it.  Then my husband climbed up to the roof, with a pail of clean,wet laundry and got strange stares from the Arab women who were hanging out their clothes.  It wasn't considered "men's work."  At the end of the day, he'd bring the dry wash back in.  Not quite what we were used to from our New York life.

In those days you didn't have the expectations today's immigrants have.  In those days nobody lived the way ordinary Israelis live today.  In those days, not only weren't there internet and cellphones for quick communication with "the old country," but a "short wait" for a home phone line meant a year.

Just like we got married "for keeps," not to "try it out," we made aliyah for keeps, too.

Sometimes too many choices mean too much trouble.