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You Cannot Hug a Video

Credit: Ali Bakhtiari on Unsplash

Our nineteen-year-old grandson calls us every Erev Shabbat from his yeshivah in the Gush. We talk to each other on a WhatsApp video call. When I was his age, I would have thought this kind of conversation to be science fiction. Our grandson initiates these calls willingly and every Friday also calls his parents and his other grandparents in America.

During my year as a foreign student in Israel (the 1969-70 academic year) I was not such a devoted son. In my defense, communicating with the folks back in Philadelphia was not so simple and required a great deal of effort.

If I wanted to write, I had to make sure to have purchased an economical aerogramme from the post office. An aerogramme was a sheet of paper with pre-paid postage for overseas airmail on which you wrote as much as you could cram onto both sides of the sheet. You then folded it over into a self-contained envelope with a little space in front for the name and address. By the time the aerogramme arrived at its destination all of the crowded scrawl was irrelevant and it really only indicated that you were alive the week when you sent it.

Telephoning home was also expensive and took a lot of effort. You had to buy "asimonim" (telephone tokens) and find a public phone stand. A long-distance phone call was considered to be so expensive that you were told by your parents to call "collect". They then would not accept the charges but would know that you were okay. It was not a meaningful "heart-to-heart," and frankly somewhat dishonest, and so did not happen very often during the year.

Now, in the present, we are in touch with the children and grandchildren on a weekly basis—New York to Israel—by phone and email. We receive photos digitally from them and send them photos in return. In the old days, you took photos with film cameras and had to bring them to a store to have them developed. We took fewer photos and certainly did not exchange them back and forth in real time.

We have been receiving regular videos of our infant great-grandchild as he develops rapidly during the eight months since we last saw him in New York. In the videos we see his facial expressions, his laughter, his motor movements, and hear the sound of his little voice as he starts to master some "ga"s and "da"s.

But with all the amazing instant contact with family that modern electronics provide, we are eager to make our approaching annual trip to New York. We yearn to see all of our loved ones in person.

You cannot hug a video!



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Monday, 22 July 2024

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