THE GREAT RECESSION of 2008 broke what was once a taboo for American youth: moving back in with your parents after college. Now that America is prospering again, I imagine that some of the old stigmas against living at home have returned. In Israel, it continues to be normal to live with your parents at any number of junctures in your twenties: during army service (on Sabbaths, holidays, and vacations), while working at odd jobs to earn money for the traditional post-army trek (which may extend to a year or more), during your university years if you live within commuting distance of the school, or during the accreditation and/or search period before you land your first full-time job in your profession. Twenty-somethings are thus often engaged in a kind of ebb and flow: sometimes staying with parents, and sometimes (when everyone gets on everyone’s nerves) not. Indeed, a question that rarely gets asked in America (because the answer is usually obvious) is often pertinent for middle-aged Israeli parents: Whom do you have at home now?
Of course, Israel being a very small country, even when your children move out, they don’t go very far. A majority of Israel’s population lives within about an hour’s drive of each other in the greater metropolitan areas of Israel’s two largest cities: Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Unlike in America, where visits by adult children sometimes only occur semi-annually, home visits in Israel are within the realm of serious consideration every Shabbat. For parents, however, it’s often feast or famine: if your adult children enjoy each other’s company, then they will want to synchronize their visits with those of their siblings. No one wants to be stuck home alone with Mom and Dad, G-d forbid.
For young married couples, the possibility for home visits doubles. There are young couples who are hardly ever at home for Shabbat, visiting each side of the family in rotation. This is even more the case on major Jewish holidays. In Israel, it can happen that, a couple is already in their forties, and has yet to make a single Passover Seder in their home—they always go to the grandparents. I’m not sure that such a situation is ideal. Sarah and I, living in Atlanta in our mid-twenties, had to rely on ourselves and our (very warm and hospitable) community for Shabbat and holiday company. It was a wonderful experience hosting and being hosted by people of all ages. We quickly learned how to make guests feel at home and how to be good guests ourselves, and we grew a lot in the process, individually and as a couple.
I am happy to say that talk of married children is no longer in the theoretical realm for Sarah and me, as our son Elie married Hadar Arfa on March 26. The wedding was an incredibly happy and lively event, thanks in part to the many young people in attendance (Elie narrowed down his guest list to about 110 people, including all members of his elite IDF commando unit.) Given that Sarah and I are now competing with Hadar’s family, we have told the young couple that we are not expecting to see them every week. Every other week will also be okay.
Teddy Weinberger, Ph.D., is Director of Development for a consulting company called Meaningful. He made aliyah with his family in 1997 from Miami, where he was an assistant professor of religious studies. Teddy and his wife, Sarah Jane Ross, have five children.