I was listening to the Aliyah Revolution radio show as linked to from a comment on the Aliyah Blog. While discussing the economics of aliyah, the host and his guest gave an unrealistic view of daycare expenses in Israel.
The host stated that daycare costs even more than university, but is still relatively cheap. This is true as far as tuition goes (the real cost of university must consider dormitory and book expenses). But the quote of NIS 1100-1500 a month for daycare is wildly misleading (and was disputed by a listener during the show, who said that in Haifa he paid NIS 2000/month). This lower fee will get you full-time daycare in many cities, true. But what are you getting for that price? The number of caretakers per child, required by law, is about half that in the US. A private, full-time babysitter here will cost NIS2500-3500 in the city (less in smaller towns and charedi communities), still a bargain by American standards.
Most olim expect their standard of living to go down somewhat when they make aliyah. They may plan to spend less on clothes, live in a smaller house, and go on fewer vacations. But please don’t compromise on your children’s care. If you can, have one parent stay home while you get your children set up in school. If you both must work, get a private babysitter, and drop in frequently without notice. You may find a good home daycare situation. But I suggest avoiding putting young children in an Israeli daycare center, if at all possible.
Recently several incidents of abuse by private babysitters have made the news. Mothers tell me that they would rather have their children in daycare where the staff is supervised than risk a babysitter on her own alone. I have to disagree. First of all, staff can cover up for each other. Abuse happens in daycare centers too, and no staff member can be watched constantly. Second, much of the problem in daycare centers involves not so much abuse as neglect. Babies and toddlers need more one-on-one interaction than a group situation can possibly provide. (I also suggest finding out the salary of the average daycare employee in the center you are considering.) Finally, you need to trust your child’s caretakers, whether they work in a daycare center or in your home. If you feel the need to set up a security camera then you either need a different babysitter or a different work arrangement.
There are no easy answers, or ideal circumstances. But those early years of childhood only come around once.