Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hosting Guests for Shabbat in Israel

Way back when I was learning in Yeshiva in Israel, one of the most memorable experiences was going to different families for Shabbat -- to meet "real" Israeli families.

I had a list from my parents of their friends that had moved to Israel and of Israeli relatives that I was told I could try and invite myself over to them for Shabbat. Some were easier and more receptive than others. I recall one particular family that spoke on and on about their love of Israel, and spoke to me often about why the most correct place for a Jew to live, is in Israel.

Yet the actual number of places I ended up spending Shabbat was rather limited, since it was hard to find families all over the place that I could "invite myself over to" for Shabbat.

Today, it's a different story.

The "Anywhere in Israel" program allows intrepid yeshiva or Sem students to chose places that interest THEM; the students can pick from a wide range of communities and locations and the "Anywhere in Israel" program takes care of the rest. Personally, I wish such a program existed when I was studying here.

Does it work? As hosts, we've had mixed experiences. Some of those who came were very well mannered, were very inquisitive about living here, and we had a wonderful time hosting them. Some times were very disappointing; we had Sem students stay by us who spent the entire Shabbat in their room, emerging from hibernation only for meals -- and then they were extremely introverted. While I don't define myself as being overly garrulous, I can usually put most people at ease and have a discussion with them about close to anything. Not with some of these people. The "Anywhere in Israel" hosts are not really interested in just being a Shabbat hotel, but are interested in interacting with their guests!

Helpful Tips for "Anywhere in Israel" guests:

- Don't hibernate away in your PJs all Shabbat. If you don't know your hosts, it's rather rude to treat people's hospitality as if their home is a hotel.

- It's polite behavior to offer to help with things before Shabbat. Even if your help isn't needed, the offer is polite and a nice gesture on your part.

- If you can, shower before you arrive; not everyone has around the clock hot-water.

Overall, we had very nice experiences with the program. I highly advise it for Israeli families as well as for Yeshiva/Sem students if you want to get out and tour the land, learn about the people here and see what it's such a great place.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


Anonymous said...

You get top marks as hosts!! The Muqata clan is the best!

Anonymous said...

You should pass your tips to the various schools the kids come from. Those of us who sign up are clearly happy to have guests, but no one likes being treated like hotel staff.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

anonymous: you can leave your tips as well, and I'll pass the list on to anywhereinisrael...

Leora said...

It's great that you are hosts. Wish you could have hosted me 28 years ago.

It might help to look at some of the quieter ones from the point of view of the visitor (not the entitled, hotel-oriented ones). Most of these young people have never been away from home this long, and they may not be used to expressing themselves or their needs. They may not even be aware that certain things may make them more comfortable. I was a pretty lonely teenager 28 years ago, and I wasn't very talkative, either. I am grateful for my "mishpacha" on Kibbutz Yavne and for the support of my cousins, who I just visited again two weeks ago.

Thanks again for taking care of these "kids".

Sarah Likes Green said...

it's a great idea.

Lion of Zion said...

kids these days are so spoiled. they can't take an initiative? everything has to be done for them.

ok, i'm just kidding, but . . . when i was in yeshivah i was in the middle of nowhere and i didn't really have that much family/friends to stay by. i had a friend in hakotel, but i was banned from there. so on a number of occasions i randomly called up a yishuv. i told them i was an american in yeshivah and was interested in seeing what their yishuv was like. i was never rebuffed. i remember staying in yitzhar, talmon and tel rumeida in hevron (i slept in baruch marzel's office because there were no empty beds in the family caravans).

i had a wonderful time and it was a great experience.

Gila said...

Okay--my tips (from the time when I hosted a yeshiva bochur visiting Tel Aviv for the weekend:

1) Half-hour showers are poor form and especially when the water is running the entire half-hour. I fail to see why you need a full 30 minutes of running water to get clean. Israel has water issues. Get used to it.

2) Using up an ENTIRE bar of soap on one shower....ummm...hello? What was he doing with it?

Suffice it to say that, if your soap needs are really that unusual, please bring your own. At the very least, warn your hostess immediately, so that she does not learn about it when she is already in the shower, soaking wet.

Okay-am done being cranky. :)

Anonymous said...

Woah ok, I used anywhereinIsrael a lot during my time at sem. I sure hope I wasn't one of those in my room all day coming out only for meals. I tried to be very inquisitive.

But for those who don't, I was a bit upset to see the above comments from hosts. At the end of the day, you guys are doing a tremendous chessed letting complete randomers stay in your house, because a lot of these people probably don't have anywhere to stay in Israel. Yeah it'd be nice if your guests were extremely considerate but you're opening your house as a chessed- you reap rewards for doing this so please don't feel dejected if your guests aren't so amazing.

Personally, if I knew my hosts had these feelings inside them and they're watching to make sure the guests do X, Y and Z I would have never used this facility. I went into it knowing how chilled how families in Israel are, how they're doing as a chessed and are generally very hopsitable. We're all Jews, so even if they do treat it as a "hotel" it doesn't matter, you're putting some other Jews up, kol hakavod! Where else in the world would such a thing happen? It's great, so put away the bad feelings. Even if your guests don't know how you think they hibernate in their room and it's ever so rude, just the fact that IF they knew this they'd feel uncomfortable should prevent these negative feelings.

Thank you for opening your houses, it's something for us all to aspire to when we make the big move please G-d.

Anonymous said...

Whoa. Had I known I was being judged, I NEVER would have used the program. Some of us were just lonely and have no family in Israel and just needed to feel welcome, even if we weren't ideal guests. In the words of Steve Martin, "soooooooooooooooory!"
My parents have hoasted many Bnai Akiva shlichim and shlichot in the States who have demonstrated the manners of wild boars (one locked the door to their room and then closed the door from the outside, and we needed a locksmith to get the door open- they never said sorry),but never have I heard them say a cross word.
I don't recall Avraham Avinu remarking on his guests after they left ("Wow, that angel was such a slob!")
Just goes to show you. Young people read your blog, too.
Have a nice day.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

To Shai, Gemma, and others reading this...

Perhaps I should change the wording of the post to clarify a bit more.

We're extremely happy to be hosting the anywhereinisrael program (hence the post about it in the first place), and overall, its been an extremely positive experience for ourselves and our children (and we hope our guests had a decent time as well). While we had some less than positive experiences over a year ago, it was specifically our guests from the past year that promoted this posting (the positive aspects of it).

That said, perhaps I should add some more.

We don't examine our guests under a microscope -- it isn't our business if they want to hibernate and lock themselves in their room for shabbat. No one is being "judged" -- however there should be some level of expected behaviour.

Ive been called before at 2 PM on Friday afternoon to host people. Now, if someone is stuck at 2 PM erev shabbat, I have zero problem going out of my way to help them out. Yet if the person in question is just looking to get away from yeshiva for shabbat (when shabbat meals are available in yeshiva), and decides that 2 PM on erev shabbat is a reasonable time to call up a stranger and invite himself over -- and then to have rather anti-social and rude behaviour over shabbat -- it's difficult to accept as a host.

Please don't read this the wrong way -- I think that hospitality is extremely important and should be forgiving of the foibles of guests. Looking back at when I was guest, (and maybe I wasnt the perfect house guest either), I dont know what impression I gave.

You tell me (the younger readers of this blog), do YOU think that there should be any minimum standards a guest should hold themselves to? Any recommendations for guests of the anywhereinisrael program?

Then again, I guess for every "difficult" shabbat for hosts, I'm sure there have been difficult shabbatot for the guests (with weird hosts).

In any event - thanks very much for your feedback, it's been great food for thought.

Shabbat Shalom!

Anonymous said...

Lesson of the day:

Students of HaRav Elizer Menachem Mann Shach, zs'kl, asked the Rav, 'What is the difference between someone with a good heart and someone that fears Heaven?

The Rav answered that there is an obvious difference. Both people, one with a good heart and the other that has fear of heaven, will go out of their way to do chesed with others. But the difference is when it comes to a Nisayon (test).

For example: Both will invite a stranger to their home. If the invited guest will accidently break something precious, the person with the good heart will be unable to contain his emotions and very likely will yell at the guest and cause him embarrasement. He might even kick him out of his house.

A person that has fear of heaven will immediately realize that HaShem caused the precious item to be broken and will say Hakol Letova (everything is for the best) and will not feel any anger towards his guest.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Mr. Anonymous: Thanks for that important message. G-d forbid any host should cause his guest embarrasement.

Anonymous said...

I agree there should be a level of expected behaviour- but some people don't have much sechel, they might not even realise it. And even if they do try and be good guests, the hosts might not perceive them as such. I was always conscious of the fact I needed to talk a lot and interact etc but sometimes it's hard to when so many other members of the family are speaking etc, so I may have thought I was trying but my hosts could have thought "my, what an ignorant guest we have here!"

But as I said, if I thought for one second my hosts were really looking out for certain things (not to the extent where a microscope is used!) I wouldn't have considered using the program. I guess my disappoinment lies in the fact that I'm not used to such hospitality, and I come to Israel and there's a special website where complete randomers put you up! These people must be so hospitable! It never occured to be for one second that they'd even care if their guests spent all their time in the room. I'd personally feel rude doing so, but I wouldn't have thought they'd really care- they're just doing a mitzva...

I'm sure the bad experiences you've had do create such feelings, it is understandable but I don't think there should be any set rules. The unwritten rules are bring a present and talk. Yet I don't think it should be expected.

Bear in mind some guests can't always stay in sem or yeshiva, they have out-shabbatot, and they pick a place to go - they're shy, scared, want to catch up on sleep even and they assume all Israelis couldn't care less what they do - Israelis are Israelis after all! This is especially applicable at the beginning of the year. Some guests are a bit chutzpah, you're not gonna escape it.

And yeah, I've had some weird hosts who have been the same - didn't say a word to us.. it's gonna be two-sided. And we couldn't get words in. And just weren't friendly. But I didn't complain.

It'd be funny if I'd been to your house Jameel! :D Had any girls called Gemma recently?


One of the nicest shabusim i've ever had in Israel was as a free loader at the mooqatta

Anonymous said...

to the sem/yeshiva students who responded,

it's not that you're being judged -- not at all. but there are certain rules of etiquette that are expected of a good houseguest, as there are rules of etiquette for pretty much everything.

now, when i open my home to students for a shabbat i do so with an open heart. i also realize that you are young, are for the most part still kids, have probably never been away from home this long and probably never spent time in a strangers home without your family. so, ask your parents what thay would expect of a good houseguest, and take it from there. how you behave in someone else's home is not only a reflection of who you are, but oftentimes of how you were raised. true? fair? maybe not, but that's just how it is. i generally don't hold it against a kid if he or she is not the best houseguest, i chalk it up to lack of experience, but not everyone does.

be pro-active and find out what is expected of a good houseguest. the host's home is not yours, nor is it a hotel and you shouldn't behave as if it is, comfortable and warm as it may be. i don't know if the "anywhere in israel" organization has done this already, but maybe posting a webpage of houseguest etiquette would help students enjoy and be more enjoyable.

just my 2ag.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

I'm also an Anywhere host - and we've had similar experiences. All I want to add is that I agree wtih the anonymous poster above who suggested talking to the schools and not the students. Some schools have rules. We've had guests from specific schools who ALWAYS ask if they should bring their own linen. We usually say no, but sometimes we say yes. I'm not expecting someone here for the year to think of that. I AM expecting the schools to give the chinuch of how to have hakarat hatov.

I was a guest countless times when I was coming closer to Torah. I want to pay that forward. So regardless of how my guests behave - please PLEASE come.

Litvshe said...

We've always had great experiences with the people we've had from AII. The most amazing thing is the range of kids who show up. We've had guys from the Mir, Brisk, Tchebin as well as Hesder Yeshivas. It's always interesting. I also know at least two guys who've come to our Yishuv through AII who've ended up getting engaged (and in one case, already married) to girls from the yishuv. Very cool indeed.

mother in israel said...

I agree with what Jameel wrote. He wasn't writing for himself, but for the sake of all hosts, some of whom might be reluctant to continue to invite strangers if it's an unpleasant experience. Not all of us are saints.

As a host, I might feel uncomfortable reminding a guest to use less water. Better that Jameel should do it for me.

Just heard a story about a guest who downed a 750g container of humus in one sitting. The hosts weren't concerned for their humus, but for the guest, who got quite sick. Have you ever read the ingredients on the humus package?

Commenter Abbi said...

"I wouldn't have considered using the program. I guess my disappoinment lies in the fact that I'm not used to such hospitality, and I come to Israel and there's a special website where complete randomers put you up! These people must be so hospitable! It never occured to be for one second that they'd even care if their guests spent all their time in the room."

Gemma, I'm a bit confused about why you would assume that just because a family is hospitable, they somehow this means they don't expect basic respect and courtesy from their guests. Jameel wasn't expecting guests to make a 15 minute dvar torah at the table or cook a meal or babysit his kids all afternoon so he can sleep (wouldn't that be nice?). But I don't think expecting basic courtesy is automatically being judgmental.

Anonymous said...

Ok, no, you're right. That was just my "younger" perception of it - maybe even Israelis expect certain manners!

Anonymous said...

I expect my guests to entertain my kids, so I can finally get some rest.

It's not free babysitting as I do have to feed them, but it is the next best thing.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Passin Thru: I guess there's a reason the website isn't called "BabySitAnywhereInIsrael"

Shai: I don't recall Avraham Avinu remarking on his guests after they left ("Wow, that angel was such a slob!") Avraham never remarked that because his guests were ANGELS!

However, imagine the horror of the angelic guest who said, "You know Sarah, you're going to give birth in a year", and then both Avraham and Sarah burst out laughing in the poor angel-guest's face.

He was probably so embarrassed, its no surprise the other angels decided to destroyed Sodom and Amorah.

Lurker said...

Shai: I don't recall Avraham Avinu remarking on his guests after they left ("Wow, that angel was such a slob!")

Hey, how about Lot?

Now there's a guy who would do anything for his guests...

Anonymous said...

jameel - great post and great restraint in your comments
the founders of anywhere are old friends of mine and i am so happy that it is doing so well and am glad to see it being plugged.
personaly i know i was clueless when i was 18 and didnt appreciate how much i put out my hosts. a few yrs ago on my 15th aliya anniversary i called and thanked the relatives that helped me out when i first got here, at the time i did not appreciate the many obligations a mother has. i think its a great idea to have a list of common courtesy as a guest. whenever i have a guest who acts less then courteous i think of it as kappara for any wrong doings i might have done.
at this point in life i am not hosting. with 7 children btwn the ages of 1.5 to 18 it is hard enough to give each one attention at the shabbat table. yes i know avraham aveinu was able to host the angels after his brit, but i am not avraham aveinu. i did host a seder with 6 single friends my first yr of marriage when i was 7 months pregnant, and alot of guests when my kids were younger. hachnasat orchim is a tremendous mitzva and so is shalom bayit and to paraphrase kohelet there are different times in ones life with different purposes.
yashar koach to all the hosts, may they merit seeing their guest building their own houses in israel, in israel.

Anonymous said...

Just one quick comment.
I think you're missing the point of my reaction.
Your blog may be anonymous, but when you complain about your guests on such a public forum, well, it's very public. It makes the people who used the program feel bad. I'm sure you're referring to someone else and not me-- I am so very polite (of course I'll babysit for your kids while you take a rest. Here let me fluff your pillow), but don't you think that all these commenters discussing our behavior just makes us feel that the program isn't really such a bargain? Shabbat food in Yeshiva is starting to look better.
Oh, and was it really polite of the angels to show up after Avraham was still convalescing from his brit? They certainly could have done more around the tent, knowing he was in discomfort. If you ask me, that's just rude.

Lurker said...

Shai: Oh, and was it really polite of the angels to show up after Avraham was still convalescing from his brit? They certainly could have done more around the tent, knowing he was in discomfort. If you ask me, that's just rude.

Yes, it certainly was rude of them -- and that wasn't even the half of it:

* They didn't even bother thanking Avraham for his generous offer of hospitality -- they just answered rudely, "Yeah, do what you said" (Bereishit 18:5).

* While Avraham was serving them lunch, one of them started talking to Avraham about his host's personal life, and about when he expected his host's wife to become pregnant (18:9-10).

* The same one invited himself back for another visit, without even bothering to ask if it was OK (18:10).

* They left without saying thank you or goodbye (18:16).

Commenter Abbi said...

Man, these kids are so sensitive! Lighten up a little, guys. It's called constructive criticism- get used to it, especially if you're going to a top school after your year here, which I assume many of you are.

From your tone, it sounds like the adults in your life (parents, teachers) have never pointed out times and situations where- horrors- you might have said or did the wrong thing!

Quite a scary thought.

Also, shai, the people who used the program and behaved like normal guests don't need to feel bad. The people who behaved rudely and read Jameel's remarks should feel bad- and should learn how to be better guests. Why is it bad to feel bad about bad behavior? How can you learn to behave better without having your mistakes pointed out?

Anonymous said...

i just had a great idea! have the yeshivot host us! i would eat any food that someone else made for me and served me! maybe anonymous could start a spin off of anywhere in israel for people who live here and would like to be hosted for a change! and i promise i will be on my best behavior. i would even pay for it.
btw, anonymous, i would like to hear your opinions in bh ? yrs when you are hosting yeshiva boys, who have a place to stay but, (fake pity ) dont like the shabbat yeshiva food, and expect the hospitality of avraham aveinu

RivkA with a capital A said...

I don't know whether to laugh or cry!

These comments make me want to shout: "grow up!"

I mean, hey, if you are a nice guest (and you know if you are), then don't worry about it.

And, if you realize that you could be a more polite guest, then, hey, try to be more polite next time!

What's so hard about that?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hi Shai!

While this is a "public" blog, there is a level of anonymity to it, and I absolutely would never publicly embarrass someone who was a guest at our home. Overall, I dont think my criticism was that "scathing"...or meant to make someone feel bad.

However, if it was you, Shai, at my home, and you spent shabbat locked away in your room with your friend (though they were female, and Shai sounds like a male name), I would like to say as follows. We sincerely hope you DID enjoy your shabbat!

Please continue to use the AnywhereInIsrael program -- I think it's a wonderful idea with great potential.

For the future, I think I'll post about some of my experiences as a Shabbat Guest (where I may have not been the perfect guest)...

RivkA: I dont know, its like are us "older" people so out of touch with the younger generation...?

Abbi: Maybe I need to tone down my constructive criticism?

Faith: Paying for anywhereinisrael in a yeshiva/sem? Its called a "hotel" :-)

Anonymous said...

i was expecting that a yeshiva would be cheaper then a hotel and less formal - ie i can let my kids run around, which i wouldnt do at a hotel.
seriously there is a great need for not prohibitively expensive 'heimish' places for a religous family to go to for a shabbat.

Mindy Schaper said...

Thakns for the tip-off! I'm all booked with relatives but this is agreat idea... Thanks..

Kamagra said...

You should pass your tips to the various schools the kids come from. Those of us who sign up are clearly happy to have guests, but no one likes being treated like hotel staff.

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