Sunday, August 20, 2006

Where to live?

I spent shabbat in Nof Ayalon, a small yishuv affiliated with/attatched to the hesder yeshiva Sha'alvim. In many ways, it's quite the idyllic small town, straight out of a 50's sitcom, with its special Orthodox twist- children wandering the streets in gangs, making up their own fun as they go along; the streets flooding in a single sudden gush when the shul lets out; neighbors whose homes you will wander in and out of; stands where you can hitch a ride without having to worry.

I can't decide whether I could possibly live in a place like that. On one hand, I feel as if it's the sort of childhood that I ought to give my future kids, in terms of innocence and camraderie and nurturing environment and so forth. And certainly, it would place me firmly in a religious setting of my own, where there would be plenty of opportunities and inspiration for shiurim, chesed, and the other sorts of activities that work best in a communal setting.

But even for the single shabbat, I found that it stifled me. Like living there would crush my illusions of individuality. How can you feel like a person when everyone you know goes to the same shul and has the same interests and everyone's kids go to the same school and the same s'nif and have the same beliefs. You come out of shul with everyone else and walk home to your identical shabbat table with the same divrei torah sent home by the same teachers and your children rush off to the same pe'ulot as you clear your identical table and go to take your identical nap.

And it's not just a matter of not feeling unique. It's the very fact of all the homogeneity. What would it be like to spend your entire life among people whose ideology completely coincides with your own? Can what you do even be called thinking after a while, or is it just the communal brain swinging into the obvious, universal conclusion? Never to have your ideas challenged, never to have to accomodate another point of view- couldn't it make your personal conscience shrivel up and die entirely? And even if you were fine, what would it do to your children to never have to struggle with anything they ever thought, to have every idea implanted and reinforced by the fact that everyone they know thinks the same?

I guess the reason that I'm so worried about this is because of last year's anti-disengagement activism, which was so unanimous in certain groups that it seemed nothing short of indoctrination. I mean, does anybody know of a B'nei Akiva kid who supported disengagement? Is such a thing possible? What, I wonder, would have happened to a kid who happened to think that disengagement was a good idea? Would they have been ostracized, pressured, ignored? Or are their minds so thoroughly homogeneous that it would have been impossible for any of them to have thought such a thing? I know that it sounds patronizing to assume that they didn't all just happen to reach the same conclusion, but I don't think that the argument was so one-sided that no reasonable person could have reached a decision opposed to the concensus. And so I get kind of scared when I go to places like this yishuv, where everybody agrees and is friendly and nice and small town and religious (but not the wrong kind of religious) and holds the right views and so forth. Maybe people need constant friction in order to really think, let alone grow.


Miri said...

there is something to that...although I never fully agreed with Tolstoy's celebrated phrase"happy failies are all alike, while unhappy families are unhappy in their own way." I don't think all happy families are alike, and I don't think everyone in Nof Ayalon necessarily thinks alike, although the Gush Katif stuff was pretty intense. you could theoretically live in such a place while working somewhere which did challenge your ideology...and as to the children, I think any true thinker will think despite indoctrination and homogenaiety. eventually the real individual will take a tep back and ponder his surroundings....after all, I think it's one of the reasons that so many yishuv youth don't like living on the yishuv.and any child who doesn't think that way on his own can be guided or coached to. but I agree that it's healthier to see other ppl and to be challengd in what you beleive. just keep in mind that your children won't be you and that not everyone functions the same way, and not everyone grows the same way. just soemthing to think abt.

anonym00kie said...

the wrong kind of religious?

and i agree with miri, thinkers are thinkers, wherever they grow up..
i think its possible to develop critical thinking, and challenge ideology within a system.
mabye they all agreed with disengagement cuz thats the obvious place their ideology would lead them to - cosnidering where they live and who their friends and family are and the ideas theyve been brougth up with, but i know that within those groups, ther were varing opinions on HOW to go about being anti disengagment.. thats worth something too..
im sure lots of poeple would say the same thing about all orthodox poeople.. and yet look at how much discord there is..its possible to question within a system

Tobie said...

I suppose it is possible to question no matter how homogeneous your culture, but I do think that it's much harder if you've never had to cope with anything that doesn't mesh with one very specific perspective. Maybe you will always have a few thinkers, but you're not going to get a general group of intelligent, sentient people. And I didn't really see even the basic discord as to how to oppose the disengagement- there was an astonishing lemmingness among groups- you'd all go to the same rallies and protests and whatnot. perhaps I'm underestimating them, but I didn't see much honest struggle of conscience, opinion, or intelligence.

wrong kind of religious being slightly sarcastic- I mean, once you live in a neighborhood when you're liable to run into charedim and that sort of thing, you might actually have your beliefs challenged or something

Miri said...

the problem with the anti-disengagement movement was that passion took the place of honest debate. if you've ever tried to argue with these people- the same people who are so violently opposed to the disengagment from Yesha now- they're not being rational, they're being emotional. you can't argue emotion, but that's what everyone was playing up to. that's how you work a mob - by playing on their emotions and getting them where it hurts. get people worked up enough about things, and they'll be willing to die for them before they actually take a minute to think abt why. I think that's closer to what tobie was talking abt, with the rallies etc.

Mike said...

A song to cheer you up

Shana said...

Two things you should know:

Bnei Akiva no longer allows left wingers in religious Zionism to speak about being left wing. Moledet can say nothing to them.
In fact, Bnei akiva has been accused of moving away from its orginal values in favor of Chardal-ism and politics.

And Yes, I do know ex Bnei Akiva-ers who did support disengagement. I ate breakfast with one of them every day.

And Tobie: Home School!!!

Did you get drafted yet?

And I will second the passion problem that Miri talked about.

Because of the nature of the program I was on when I was in Israel, we had to sit through a sicha about whether to follow orders or not. Rav Elli kept debate very tight on purpose, so that no one had a chance to explode at another person. The reason was: Many of the girl-women in the room were going to Aza as soldiers.

I actually saw a really relevant post about why emotions make debating hard.

A lot of the problems that I see in all shades of Jewish orthodoxy is entrenchment of certain underlying paradigms about how the world and halacha work as separate entities as well as in tandem. They eventually become the ideologies that marks various Jewish Movements in their current form. Here is the question though: Are those paradigms correct in their understanding of how the world works? A lot of the modern world currently involves confronting our paradigms with a world that changes far faster than we can at times.

It is hard to keep a paradigm going when it is constantly being challenged. Better let ideology handle it, since emotion bolsters it enough to give it the sustaining power needed to act as a base.

Tobie said...

I dunno. Maybe I just have some knee-jerk reaction towards unanimity. Maybe it's a pathology of mine. But I find it disturbing and worrisome when huge groups of people all just happen to have the same views. I agree that it's probably an emotional thing, but that doesn't mean that it appeals to me any more

Tobie said...

Mike- how do you put a link in a comment? I could never figure that one out.

Miri said...

Shana- I can't imagine that the paradigms for how the world works which underly the philosophy behind most major Jewish movemenets would be any less accurate than any other paradigm. human perception is human perception, as flawed,personal, and universal in one person as the next. but then, I can't really say without knowing details.
I thought the idea of a paradigm is that human nature tends to be miraculously similar from one context to the next, and that's why they work sometimes.
also, I think tobie's point was that a paradigm should be continually challenged and debated, bc that's how ideas grow and develop and form movements, and keep the people within them thinking instead of lettng it all ride on a few easy, pre-hashed out and fully formed theologies and ideologies.
emotions are dangerous though. maybe we ought to do away with them completely. ;)

Mike said...

The way to post a link in a comment is the same way you add a link except without the li tags