I recently attended a festive occasion arranged by my wife’s family. They celebrated the aunt’s 90th birthday, her daughter 60th birthday and the birth of three grandchildren during that month. The atmosphere was joyful, accented by homemade food, specially written poems and a presentation of the aunt’s rich life. Experiencing the gathering as an outsider, three major themes of Israeli family life stuck out, especially in comparison with too many American families.
First, all five of the aunt’s children attended and talked with each other. In other words, whatever disagreements they may have, communication is maintained. The willingness to forgive if not forget is typical of many if not most Israeli families.
Second, three of the five children and many of the grandchildren lived close to the aunt. Two of the daughters lived within walking distance. From what I overheard, many of the grandchildren had lunch and did their homework with the grandparents. Thus, the generational connection goes beyond formal bounds. This binding of multiple generations leads to emotional connections.
Last, based on the stories that were told, the aunt and uncle did not buy their respect. They did not have much money when they were raising their children. However, they invested time and energy in their children, instilling them with their values and ambitions. These are not latch key children. In the West, good parenting often seems to be equivalent to having a good income. The reality is truly quite different.
In short, I thoroughly enjoyed the good feeling of the birthday celebration. I admit that I felt some envy, not for the first time, watching the warm relations between the people there. However, to make myself very clear, I heartfully wish them and everybody many such events. They make life worth living until the age of 90, at least.