Olim and daycare: Don’t lower your standards

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.


  1. Other notes:
    -Don’t trust the absorption center (even their social worker) to know anything about the daycare they suggest
    -Get advice from other parents in your area
    -Find out the number of children they take (I have friends who were told the provider only took five, but in the end their were eight!)
    -Trust your instincts…if it doesn’t feel right to you or your child, find another place..we did this and are very glad we did!

  2. Safranit–
    All very good suggestions!

  3. What is the child to caregiver ratio in Israel? I believe it is 5:1 here and only two (or one) under the age of 1 here, but I don’t know for sure since I’m home and plan to be for the long run. In my opinion even these legal limits are pushing it for small kids, esp. babies.

  4. In the USA – at least in NY State – each childcare worker can take up to four babies, more for if over a year.
    How on earth can one person care for that many babies? When a mother gives birth to twins or has two babies close in age, friends always wonder how she will cope alone.
    A friend of mine, who works in a well- respected US day care center, tells me that she HAS to prop bottles, because she just cannot hold more than one baby to feed at a time. Both the children and the staff are almost constantly sick, passing germs from one to the other, and this is in what is considered to be a GOOD setting 🙁

  5. Maybe its because my children are tsabarim and so my only experience with daycare is here, but we had very positive experiences with the WIZO daycare in our town (well the one we used – there are 2).
    Now granted I did a lot of checking around before deciding and in every conversation with every parent, the same name came up as ‘if you need full time daycare, X is the place to go’. So I’m willing to grant its exceptional – most of the staff has been there since it opened 15 years ago (no turnover at all during the 5 years i had kids there is probably unheard of anyplace else), the director has been there 10 years, etc. They were more than supportive of my breastfeeding which was a big deal – handling expressed milk, letting me stop in when i was able once a week during my lunch to nurse, etc. And while yes, there were perhaps more kids than i would have liked in the oldest group, the fact my kids still talk fondly about their ‘teachers’ and the place years later (my 8 year old still likes us to stop by the apartment of one of his teachers when we are visiting a friend who lives nearby, just to say hi) makes me feel ok with my choices.
    But I do agree that you need to look VERY carefully. I visited several ‘good’ daycares (as per recommendations from peopl) and was not at all happy with what I saw. And money isn’t everything – it was actually the most expensive place that made the worst impression on me!

  6. mominisrael says

    SL–I don’t remember the numbers but when I find out I will post them.
    Sareena–I didn’t know you were reading! I’m trying to convince my friend expecting twins that making a bat mitzvah a month after their due date is not a good idea, no matter what her family’s vacation plans are.
    Shoshana–Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m sure it will be helpful to other readers.

  7. The legal ratio for under-1 is 6:1. It might be the same for until 2 years.
    After I found out the ratio, and did a two-day experiment, we stuck with a babysitter (baby was part of the interview), and B”H, we have had success. After my first year of teaching, I decided to find a job from home.
    I would like to stay home – working on the computer, if I must – until the last child is in kindergarten or first grade. I see daycare, and home daycares, the way I see formula – there are way too many risks, so do everything humanly possible to avoid it.