My daughter hated being in the UK. She is exuberance on legs, and even at that young age the repression, rigidity and behavior code of the UK was already making her – and me – pretty miserable. When we moved to Israel, and all of a sudden she was around other kids who were loud, and other kids who weren’t polite 24/7, and other kids who were real personalities, and not dressed in matching outfits, she came out of her shell and really started to blossom.
Big hair was OK! Explosively loud laughing fits were OK! Having your own opinion was OK!
The aliya growth spurt
Within a year of being here, she shot up, and she just kept growing and growing, in every sense of the word. She broke the 5ft barrier easily, and while she won’t make it into the Guinness Book of Records any time soon, she’s a very nice height.
I was convinced for years that if we’d have stayed in the UK, my daughter wouldn’t have grown the same way, but it sounded a bit too ‘grandmother’s tales’ even to me, so this was a secret conviction I had.
Then last week, God arranged for me to pick up a copy of Bernie Siegel’s ‘Love, Medicine and Miracles’ in the second-hand book shop, and I am LOVING this book, despite the fact it’s ancient and mentions a lot of terminal illnesses.
BH, I’ll write more about some of the amazing ideas it contains, but one of the more scientific nuggets that caught my attention was an aside about ‘psycho-dwarfism’. Apparently, clinical studies were done to measure the relationship between height and a healthy, happy, balanced upbringing. Guess what? Kids who came from families that fought a lot, that were critical and angry, or generally just miserable, stressful places to be were much more likely to be short.
In fact, the correlation was so pronounced between notable lack of growth and difficult family circumstances that it got given its own name: psycho-dwarfism.
Unhappy soul = health issues
In a nutshell, when kids had to spend a lot of their energy dealing with negative emotional flack and fall-out, they didn’t have a lot left over to do the physical job of actually growing. The link between unhealthy body and unhealthy mind and unhappy soul was coming across clear and loud.
As soon as I read that, I had a ‘Aha!’ moment. My family life was super-stressful in the UK, although I was doing my best to be a good mother and wife. I had a job writing stuff for British Government ministers, which meant I had to be on-call and mentally-alert to turn speeches and other things around in 24 hours. I was SO stressed by my work, that even though I was doing a 4 day week (in theory…) and keeping Shabbat, my home life was still a shambles.
But what choice did I have? If I wanted a nice house, and a new car, and the odd holiday to Israel, I HAD to work. And me and my family all paid a huge price.
Over the last 10 years of being in Israel, as all the muck of galut living and thinking has started to get pulled off of us, I’m seeing more and more what a present God gave us by getting us here. Yes, I no longer own my own home; yes, I’ve been through a number of very difficult tests; yes, it’s been very hard going at times.
But look at the benefits! We are all so much healthier and happier than we would have been back in the UK - we've all been 'growing' in every sense of the word - and at least one of my kids is probably a whole foot taller in Jerusalem that she ever would have been back in London.