September 7, 2010
Dear Friends and Family,
With Rosh Hashana no longer just around the corner, but looming right before us, the business of taking stock of ourselves is unavoidable. Shiurim are filled to capacity and now everyone-Asheknazim and Sephardim- is getting up early for Slichos. The Old City streets are flowing at all hours with every kind of Jew visiting their Father at the holy Kotel, seeking forgiveness and a year in which their heartfelt prayers will be answered.
With so many people out and about, I’m sure to run into someone I haven’t seen in a while. So a chance meeting with Naomi last Shabbat was no surprise. Neither was the content of our conversation. After a year here, she’s longing for the more predictable life and reliable parnassa, income, she remembered having in America. And frankly I was sympathetic. She is working very hard and seeing progress, but it’s not going as well as she’d planned.
Not surprising at all. In Israel, most things having to do with this material world are riddled with confusion and difficulty. It’s hard to get around, it’s hard to find your place, and it’s hard to make a living. They tell you this all pre-aliya, but still, we olim usually get hit with setbacks we did not envision. More often than not, the difficulties are financial.
In Israel, earning a livelihood has its own set of rules. “Survival without begging, that is considered parnassa here,” says Rabbi Zev Leff. Pretty shocking isn’t it? But we are all beggars in a sense, begging Hashem for everything we feel we need, including parnassa.
I didn’t write much about our own parnassa problems because the point of these letters is to feed your natural yearning to be here. I wanted to be positive and you’d probably never believe me for one moment ever again if I told you that worrying about, and struggling for parnassa is a positive thing.
But it truly has been. It has strengthened our emuna and opened in us wells of gratitude. It has brought Hashem into our lives in a constant way that we never imagined possible.
No matter what we perceive of our effort, He really IS running the world. He is the One Who gave us a good business and a big house with a great view on Breezy Lane. And He is the One who brought us to our much smaller rented apartment below Misgav Ladach Street with no view…and with no job. Want to guess where we’d rather be?
He is the One who gave us opportunities and watched how we responded when they fell away. What did we do? The only thing we could: we turned to Him. We were scared, but we tried our best to accept it with simcha. After all, look where we were!
So David sat in yeshiva rather than sit around the house. I wrote and tried to help people as best I could. We encouraged each other and worked on our middos together and alone. For sure we fell into some very dark and panicked moments (days, weeks), but we simply had to drag ourselves out. What other choice did we have?
We knew deep down that this hardship was for our own good, to help us grow. And emuna (faith/trust) was the unemployment benefit. Knowing that everything we need to complete our task in this world is supplied by Hashem. We may not always like our pekele, but it is truly for our own benefit. The best part is, it’s a benefit that does not ever end, even when prayers are answered.
I’ll tell you a secret we learned through our struggle: Parnassa doesn’t always come from a job. We do not rely on miracles, but they happen with astonishing regularity here. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve heard how someone suddenly had exactly the right amount of money… exactly when it was needed. Just yesterday a man told us how he bought his apartment (from an owner who said he’d never sell) when he had absolutely no savings. A woman we know could not attend a special simcha in America until someone she had done a kindness for unexpectedly offered her points to cover her air fare and hotel. Neighbors received an out of the blue windfall that matched exactly the cost of their daughter’s wedding.
We have our own “miracle” stories. Flashes in the darkness when we clearly saw Hashem’s open Hand. They gave us hope when we wondered if we were ever going to have a positive cash flow again.
Then, about a year ago, Hashem gave us another chance. L’at, l’at, (slowly,slowly) the business is growing. Slowly our days are more and more occupied with phone calls and to do lists, clients and computer screens. We hope it continues and we’ll do our part, the result is up to Him.
We miss how David’s full time learning permeated our home. His shortened daily seder is all the more precious now. I miss being able to dedicate so much time to helping out others, attending shiurim and writing. I especially miss writing these letters to you as often as I’d like. But even this, after all, is an answer to our prayers.
~That’s how it goes here, so be careful what you pray for.
May you be blessed with a parnassa kalla v'nikiya (an easy and clean livelihood) & have a Shana Tova u’metuka, A Good & Sweet New Year~
Come Home Soon,
Love, David and Renee
I’ll continue to write you from to time to time but for now, please see what we’ve been up to: Trusted Property Management and Buyers’ Consulting
We work on referrals, so if you or someone you know is interested in purchasing property in Israel for personal use or investment purposes, we would love to help them through the entire process.
Erev Shabbat Parsha Shelach Lecha 5770
June 3. 2010
Last week we asked you to spy out the Land and return with a good report. (here's that post) I am happy to say the vote this time is united: The Land is indeed very, very good! You can still send us the results of your intelligence; we'll be happy to include it.
Now...for the Spies' Report:
When I think of Israel, I am reminded of so many friends who had the courage to pick up everything and leave the familiar surrounding of America and go home to a place that really feels like home...The common thread all these friends share, aside from living in Israel, is that they are content. When [one dear friend] moved, she was 100% confident that she would love her home - not just her house, but her home. When I speak with her now, she agrees that she is content. There is no other place she'd rather be.
I echo the sentiments of those who feel a connection to the earth of the Eretz. It is holy dirt, earth that our ancestors trod, dust that covers my shoes covered their shoes. The pride and unconditional love I feel for the land comes from knowing I carry on a tradition handed down from HaKadosh Baruch Hu to us, his children, to visit historical places in Jewish history, unearth Jewish antiquities and preserve them and keep His Torah alive. You cannot do all this anywhere else but Israel.
Here's my 12 reasons to love Israel:
1. What a pleasure it is to be majority religion.
2. What a pleasure it is for things to close down Friday afternoon and reopen Sunday morning, not Sunday at 12.
3. What a pleasure for place of business to be open Christmas day and be closed on Rosh Hashana.
4. What a pleasure it is be able to eat in any restaurant because the food is kosher.
5. What a pleasure it is to find so many hat shops!
6. What a pleasure it is to find modest clothing in women's clothing stores.
7. What a pleasure it is to be able to find a small shteibel on virtually every corner.
8. What a pleasure it is to see all walks of women (orthodox and non-orthodox) using the same mikvah.
9. What a pleasure it is to touch the smooth stones of the Kotel, knowing the tens of thousands of fingers have touched them for the same reasons you touch them - to get a millimeter closer to HaShem.
10. What a pleasure it is to feel so safe and protected in a place where many would argue is extremely unsafe.
11. What a pleasure it is to hear your neighbors singing the same Shabbos songs you're singing, every single week.
12. What pleasure I take in knowing that one day, Please G-d, I, too, will be able to live in Israel.
What a wonderful thought. Here is my list.
1) I find inner peace when I am in Israel and it gives me strength to
return to my life here in Canada to enjoy my friends and family.
2) I now have relatives living in Israel.
I loved feeling that, no matter where I went in Israel, I felt I belonged, that I was home.
Hi, what a great idea! I can think of lots of things I loved about being in Israel. . .
I loved feeling like every minute I was accomplishing something, just because I was in Israel. If I rode the bus, it was major, just because I was in Israel. If I went to the grocery store, it was a big deal, just because I was in Israel. Nothing I could do felt like a waste of time.
And, of course I loved the sharing of taxis. Two people standing somewhere, maybe you were going in the same direction? From taxi rides, I received Shabbos invites and made new friends. I tried this in New York once. . . just didn’t' have the same feel.
Oh yes, and even the most secular of Israelis believes in G-d. “Baruch Hashem,” you hear people saying. Here, in America, it often feels like we intellectually believe in G-d, but we don't really. We don't feel it. We just rationalized it/justified it/logic-ed it out. But there -- you FEEL G-d.
There is a sense that we are all one big family, that G-d is with us, and there is meaning to every minute of our lives. Not a day passes that I don't think of moving back. . .
-Every family needs a home, and living in Eretz Yisroel is living in our family's true home.
-Every few steps we walk we are fulfilling the Mitzvah of Sechar Halicha
-Being around other Jews, you always have someone to learn from
-The history of our people is around every corner here
-The land is beautiful and Jerusalem in particular is Yafefiah - very beautiful.
Walking through the Machane Yehuda shuk you have a plethora of delicious fruits and vegetables, most were grown keeping laws of Truma, Maaser, Orlah, and Shmittah, that can only be done here!!!
On Shavuos, regardless of cultural differences, 100's of 1000's of Jews gather at the Kotel, where Hashem's Shechina is most revealed, and daven together.
When you donate blood here, you are giving directly to your brother.
The bus driver says, "Shalom."
You can buy food for years at the local grocery without having to pay your bill; isn't that a ridiculously high level of trust?
When you take a loan from the bank, they provide the Heter Iska! (a halachic contract for business transaction between lender and debtor)
There are no cars on the highway on Yom Kippur, so the very secular make bike races on that day - because even they won't drive a car on Yom Kippur!
From Faith Cohen
I always say that my role as madrica on these Birthright trips is just a facilitator. The real tour guide is the Almighty— and the land really inspires, captivates and leads the group. My job is to bring them safely to different locations, and let the majesty of the land and the kedusha of the air take over.
1. A silent night stroll in the desert under the stars creates a noise that is as loud as thunder when it reverberates with the soul. During the "Bedouin Experience" portion of the trips, we take the group for a quiet walk through the desert. It is on these walks and afterwards through reflection that participants realize that they are an integral part of the Jewish people. They look at the numerous stars in the sky, and learn that they too are a link and a part of the promise given to Avraham Avinu. Perhaps they would feel this anywhere in the world when faced with a sky lit up as bright as day with hundreds of sparkling stars, but when paired with the experience of meeting our homeland and learning about our heritage, and tracing the footsteps of our ancestors, they are awoken in a way that is indescribable.
2. Meeting a soldier who is your age, and realizing that you have more in common than you thought. "Mifgashim" is a part of the Birthright trips— where soldiers come to join the group as participants. Often, the American participants think they'll have nothing in common with the soldiers. That is until they meet them and realize that these soldiers are their age, their peer group, and support the weight of the state of Israel on their shoulders. The amount of love and support shown to the soldiers by the end of the trip is awesome. They become a part of the group, and the participants can really see and feel that these individuals are sacrificing not just for Jews in Israel, but for all of klal yisroel.
3. Seeing the Kotel for the first time, and crying even through you don't know why. There is something about Yerushalyim, and the Kotel in particular that really strikes a chord inside someone's soul. When I see those tears, I know that it is coming from deep within them— and something subconsciously draws them to the wall. There really is no other way to describe it. Ultimately, their neshamos are a part of something much larger, and just that atmosphere of kedusha at the Kotel brings them back to that realization.
I miss "crying" as an acceptable social activity. If you go to Kotel, kever Rachel, any of the graves of tzadikim, it's perfectly acceptable -- praiseworthy -- to cry out in pain, anguish, need of a refuah! In America, life must always be perfect -- "have a nice day" is a platitude that no one really means, and if anyone asks, "how are you" they really don't care. If I wanted hang out with a girlfriend and of these locales, where we would inevitably end up crying, would be an activity. A meaningful, worthwhile activity.
And, I miss feeling like you can get on a bus, and know "generally' where you're going, with full faith that someone on the bus will help you find exactly where you need to be. And where hitchhiking is an acceptable -- and safe -- form of transportation.
And of course the Kotel. Not just for the crying. But the feeling like there really is a center of the universe.
The positive aspects of this land are to numerous to even try to list. The sky is bluer, the air fresher, sweeter, the food tastier the people more real and alive. The day-to-day existence is so filled with reality that one comes to understand what is real and meaningful, and it’s not what you'd expect.
1. To be able to daven at the Kosel
2. To be among our own people, everywhere i.e. shopping, buses, just walking around
3. The siren on Erev Shabbos- no cars on Shabbos in the old city
4. To be able to daven at so many mekomos hakedoshim
5. To be in the land Hashem promised us
I never lived in Israel, but have dreamed about it since my 1st visit in 1968. My second visit was in 1988 and I felt my heart sink seeing the Old City for the first time in 20 years, realizing I wasn’t a part of the rebuilding by living there. So, in my 8 subsequent visits, I’ve only imagined what it would be like to live every day in Eretz Yisrael.
Here’s what I think the best part of living in Israel would be: I would feel a sense of gratitude every day for where I live instead of a deep seated longing that goes unfulfilled. I would breathe the holy air of the holy land every day. Remember that Hashem made each of us in His holy Image to choose wisely what we do with our lives and where we spend our time.
That’s my 2 cents for today.
The best for me is that everyone is Jewish and you don't feel different. Although my relatives there are 2nd and 3rd cousins, they feel much closer. We feel like one of them. Once I was very sick in Israel and wound up in the old hospital in Safed. Although scared, I felt that I was in good hands. When my doctor came in with a Kippah, I felt safe and it would be okay. The best is that feeling of being home.
Thanks for the invitation to contribute. Some things quickly came to mind. You should not attribute me: I do not wish to blow my cover since I may wish to spy for you in the future, too.
1) Living as an observant Jew in a pastoral setting (small town, village, farming community)
2) Being able to observe shmitta in all its manifestations
3) Living among Jews of all stripes and flavors, within a generation or two of arrival from >100 countries
4) Walking where my ancestors walked thousands of years ago
5) That radio program discussing this week's haftora, immediately following a pop hit by Lady GaGa... and targeted the same audience
6) The group (somewhat immodestly dressed) teens in a food court during Pesach, squinting as they read a ketchup package to see if it contained chometz
7) Not having to explain why you feel as you do....
8) Is it reishit tzmichat geulateinu (the first flowering of our Redemption) or not? Even if we do not know, living in Israel surely can’t hurt...
I've only been to Israel twice in my life: once when I was 18 with my parents and siblings, and right before I met my bashert; and the other time with my bashert and our four sons. I was conservative observant at age 18, and more orthodox observant when I went to Israel the second time. Both times, I had the same feelings when we arrived in Israel and when we left Israel. I was overcome with joy of returning home, and overcome with sadness of leaving Israel, our true home. A friend of ours calls Israel the "heart of the world.” It tears at our heartstrings when we are away from it.
Thank you for this wonderful challenge - wonderful to think about all the things I love about living in Israel; challenging, because I have to pick and choose the one(s) most appropriate for this project. Feel free to visit my blog and take anything you like out of there. Here's my attempt at summing it all up:
Living in Israel means living MY calendar. My holidays are the country's holidays. My days off from work are my employer's days off from work, etc. This weekend is Memorial Day here in the U.S. It means little more to me than a bar-b-q. Ditto for Independence Day (July 4). New Year's Day (January 1) is when I start dating my checks with a new digit or two at the end. In Israel, I cry on Memorial Day, jump for joy on Independence Day and on Rosh Hashanah I stand before the King of Kings "ba'Makome asher yivchar" (in the place that He has chosen). Take me Home!
Yashar Koach on throwing the ball in our court, Rena. Can't wait to see what you compile.
SO here are 12 things I love
1-The children are very self reliant on the one hand, and maintain their childishness too
2-The school and work calendar is built around the Jewish calendar -- no need to take vacation days for chaggim
3-Fresh bread is dropped off outside the local store in the morning, if the store is not yet open; I can take a loaf of bread and pay for it later
4-We are all family -- a deliveryman can yell you at one moment and be giving you brachot the next
5-Buying tzitzit and bedikat cloths at the grocery store
6-On erev Shabbat and erev Chag, the streets are lined with vendors selling flowers and fruit for Shabbat
7-The grocery clerks wishes you a Shabbat shalom and chag sameach
8-The tent in the parking lot sells Purim costumes
9-The pool has separate hours for men and women
10-It's more common to find big families in small homes than small families in big homes
11-Yom Hazikaron is truly a day to remember those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for this land
12-You can travel a short distance and be in a place relevant to Tanach
For us, now being back in America, we can see that during our time in Israel, although there were the gashmius "difficulties" and "adjustments" the spiritual clarity and day-to-day ruchnius was ever-present.
Of course now in America, and worldwide, most people are experiencing the gashmius "difficulties" and "adjustments" AND are TOTALLY lacking spiritual clarity and daily, or even monthly, ruchnius. So I guess that makes a very strong case for where we need to be...
Shopping in Machane Yehuda Thursday nights and Friday mornings to
prepare for Shabbos. it is great fun buying rugelach, salads, and
cheeses with thousands of other Jews, while eating a falafel and
shlepping all of your bags.
Celebrating Purim all week long. The stores are all loaded with silly
costumes, and shaloch manos baskets galore. The streets are filled with
happy children dressed up in costumes singing age-old Purim songs. the
joy lasts for days even when the parade is over.
Living in the old city and celebrating Yom Yerushalim with loads of other Jews while listening to a concert and watching fireworks.
Going cherry picking on a local kibbutz and being able to learn how to take your own truma and maaser on your fresh picked cherries.
Staying up all night on Shavuos hopping from one class to another, or one cheesecake party to another and meeting thousands of other Jews down at the Kotel for sunrise Shacharis.
Watching the yeshiva HaKotel boys dance and sing their way down to the Kotel for Kabbalat Shabbat.
This is a small sampling from josh and Jodi
& here's a final note from an insightful woman in America who, like many of you, is strengthening K'lal Yisrael in her own special way:
Things could change. At this time in our life, I feel we will be better off here (we are very blessed in so many ways).
As I walk in the neighborhood I say Berachas for all the people I see and all the homes we pass. Does I help them? I do not know but it helps me.
We are grateful you and David are happy living there and my constant prayer is for a political change, for a better world absorbed in study of Torah.
Well, I am crying, how about you??
Reading your reports really made me think about what it will take for everyone to see how amazingly good the Land is. Besides seeing the good and speak positively, I wonder... if we are also being negative (sad, complaining, jealous), are we dulling the good we've put out there? For example, I just don't understand when I hear my fellow olim say, "It's too hot to...(fill in the blank)," "I can't find decent mustard (...soy sauce, dry cleaners...) anywhere in this country," or " What's with all the sick cats?"
The sin of the spies was one of Loshen Hara, hearing and believing slander, true or not. We correct that damaging trait with an "ayin tova" focusing on the good in The Land of Israel.
B"H it's hot, that means fields and fields of sunflowers! The mustard is just fine here, maybe having 17 choices is not so important, anyway. And remember, you can now find decent tunafish and Heinz ketchup pretty much about anywhere. About the cats...we have virtually no rats, case closed.
And it's not only the Land, as our final spy reported. It's even more important, I think, when it comes to each other. Let's not talk about "them" : the groups of Jews we don't "get.” Let's not be distracted by our friend's/family member's/co-worker's shortcomings; we all have them, after all. Let's see the tzelem Elokim (the G-dliness) in every Jew!
With our "ayin tova" we can eradicate Loshen Hara and truly build each other up. Then we might actually see a K'lal Yisrael settled in Eretz Yisrael the way it's supposed to be, because Eretz Yisrael will only flourish with her People.
Thank you, all you spies among us. Like Calev and Yehoshua, the two spies who returned to the Land in the merit of their positive report, we hope that you continue seeing everything with your ayin tova and may Hashem bless you all to come home soon.
Renee and David
~Baruch haBah to our newest olim from Atlanta, Rabbi Kalman and Mrs. Malka Rosenbaum, who instilled in our children, and in everyone they meet, that each of us is a tzelem Elokim. Your arrival touches us all, may we merit to hear bsoros tovos together soon.~
Soon we will read the Torah portion Shelach, recalling the sin of the spies. These were the 12 men that Moshe sent to scout out the Land of Israel before entering. When they returned, their distorted and negative reports caused the b’nai Yisrael to despair. As a result of speaking and believing this slander about the land, Hashem decreed a 40 year delay before they could enter the Land.
Our first year here, Nefesh B'Nefesh initiated a "12 to 12" project. They requested that, because olim are witness to all that is good and special about living here, we tell our family, friends and neighbors abroad what those things are. In 2007 hundreds of us composed lists of 12 things we appreciate and love about living in Israel and emailed the lists to at least 12 friends in the “Old County.” In this way, we hoped to help rectify the Sin of the Spies.
David and I sent out a letter we called “12+1.” The next year, the project went on quietly and we sent you our “12 to 120.” Last year, I continued with “12 Invitations”
This year I am doing it differently: I’d like YOU to be the spies.
Please write to me here with anything you believe to be positive about living in this wonderful, holy Land. I’ll put them together and send it out to the list (with or without your name, let me know) before Shabbat Parsha Shelach. It’ll be our “Achdus” list. In the merit of your Loshen Tov about Eretz Yisrael, may all our efforts help to bring about the miracle we are anticipating-when you all come home soon.
Send your email to me here soon! ...
April 19, 2010
It seemed that before we knew it, we were sending them off to the airport-back to their lives of work, school and friends in America. It was so hard for me to let my children go. Even with all the advances in communication, we can’t be there when one of them just wants a hug, a dose of mothering when they are hurt or sick, or us to join them in a milestone celebration. We sacrifice the daily nachas of seeing our granddaughter grow. It’s painful not to be part of each others’ lives in that way. Thank G-d they have a good support system of family, friends and connections there. They are growing in the right directions and making us proud with their choices.
And I think they feel proud of our choice too. They see how much we love living here and thrive on the clarity and the kedusha that permeates life in Israel. For them, coming home means coming to the center of the universe. It means revisiting the place where so much growth happened in their young lives and memories are revived every time they so much as hop on a bus. We are of course disappointed that despite our passion, they choose not to live here. What happened? I think that except for “yeshiva couples,” Israel is not seen as a viable alternative to "getting on on with life" in America after learning here post high school.
I pray that at the right time, they will decide to come, but for now, we are grateful to Hashem (and our depleted frequent flyer accounts); for those precious couple of weeks over Pesach. We spent most of our days together and did not have many guests; the kids have few friends here now, anyway. A lot of our time was spent in Pesach cleaning and cooking marathons; thanks to everyone pitching in, we made it through with sanity and shalom in check.
Needless to say, we saw a lot of our grocery delivery man, Tvi. Tzvi is a quiet, wiry man who followed me home just about every other day before and during Pesach, pushing his hand truck loaded with boxes of more fresh Israel grown oranges, apples, lemons, eggplants, onions, garlic, carrots, lettuces, kholrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, fragrant herbs than you can imagine. Plus liters of Diet Coke, wine and water. And oh yes, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes! Tzvi often gives us a morsel of a vort as he walks out of our door after dropping off the groceries, and here’s one I’d especially like to share with you:
Pesach made us the Nation of Israel. Peasch is spelled with the letters: pay, sameach, het, which Tzvi said stands for “Protexia,” “Savlanut,” “Chutzpha” – these, he told us with a wink, make us Israeli.
His jest was funny because it has its truth and it made me wonder, am I an Israeli yet?
We do not have the born-and-bred-in-Israel type of Protexia, but we olim look out for each other. We share information and experience, give referrals and advice freely. We advertise for each other and look out for parnassa opportunities as if it was for our own child or brother. Unquestionably, an oleh of decades will willingly go to bat and even stick his neck out for newbies like us or any other oleh in a tight spot.
Savlanut comes simply because we have the merit to live in the Land of our national yearning. Being grateful for that miracle alone dwarfs any inconvenience, any obstacle. Even though the same problems arise here as everywhere else, our worries are less because the clarity is so much more.
However, I don’t think anyone would say I have chutzpah. I DO wait patiently in line and I sometimes cry if an Israeli talks to me with chutzpah (like my driving instructor did yesterday). In Alabama where I was raised, chutzpah was considered just plain old bad manners. But here, it is something different altogether. It is certainly blunt but it doesn’t have to be arrogant. If one can master the ability to deliver a dose of it honestly, and even charmingly-it is a much admired trait.
An Israeli driving instructor for instance, will talk to you with relentless bluntness because he wants to see you pass the exam. The taxi driver will ask you personal questions like how much is your rent and then tell you that you should rent in his neighborhood because it costs much less for the same space. When the kids run in line in front of me at the makolet (neighborhood grocery) the cashier may or may not give them musser (chastize them) and send them to the back of the line. But either way, the kids, as they master the art of chutzpah, will try it again.
I shy away from being “chutzpah-dik” because I see it as overstepping certain boundaries. I guess it is accepted and admired here because we are all family, and relatives push the boundaries because we are genuinely concerned about our family. Since every Jewish child is part of our family, Israelis feel it’s responsible to give their opinion just about anytime. The love comes through even if the message is tough.
If I want to be Israeli, according to Tzvi, then I’d better develop the art of chutzpah...so here goes.
Many, many yeshiva and seminary students have found their way to our Shabbos table in the past 3 years. As Pesach approaches and the end of their year looms, our discussions inevitably lead to what their plans are for the next year or two. It is wonderful that often they want to return for a year and can possibly see themselves building a life here. For others, returning or staying is not even on their radar screen. But besides spending a second year, they are all resigned to leaving, at least for now.
They leave behind a precious atmosphere of growth and clarity, a Land of great adventure, limitless spiritual possibility and unequaled academic opportunity. Beginning their adult life dedicated to building k’lal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael is beyond their realm of reality. Why?
The reason they all give is, “my parents.”
“My parents want me home,” -Of course, we all want our children near us.
“I need to finish school, get married, begin a career, save some money...then maybe I can come.” -By then the dream defers to the demands of the life they have already built.
“I really want to, but my friends are all leaving.” -It’s true, their friends do not stay, it isn’t the “thing” to do.
“I don’t see myself here at all.” This is the saddest thing for us to hear.
What is going on??? Parents, I know you want your kids to have the best possible future. I know you want them to have opportunities that you never did. I know you want them to to be challenged in positive ways and to grow into the incredible human beings you know they are...to fulfill and surpass your every dream for them --and for their children.
And I know you know the America in which we were raised in will never be the one they raise their children in. Even if it does get better financially, once the moral slippery slope begins in a society, it never, never rises. America and the world are morally bankrupt.
Life can be simple and pure here like no place else for the Jew. Children are raised in a life defined by Jewish values whether in the country, the suburb or the density of the city. Their neighbors may wear any kind of kippa-or none at all- or they could live in a building with Jewish friends from families just like theirs on every floor in every single apartment.
Living in a country where authentic Jewish values are the norm gives them a freedom children in America will never know. Your 5 year old can safely walk to to the makolet or take the 3 year old to the park, and you don’t have to hover over their every move. The 10 year old can bus across town with friends. We will watch out for them and maybe dispense a dose of musser if needed. This kind of independence naturally builds self esteem in children from an early age.
A family thrives on much less money here. Tuition and health bills are comparatively nonexistent. In most families both parents do not need to work full time, so mommy is there when a child comes home from school or is sick a day or two. We are not always running out to Target. Kids don’t get something new every week and don’t feel they need it because their friends aren’t getting either. Finding a school may be a challenge because there are so many choices, but again, there are so many choices.
We all know how difficult, dangerous or impossible aliya is for families with a broad age of children and established parnassa. So what can you do? Don’t perpetuate the cycle! Encourage your kids to think about beginning their young lives here. Support them if they desire to be here and help them to make it a reality.
As I see it, they need two things: #1 You to want them here. They love you, care what you think and want to make you proud. #2 A support system of friends. They have teachers and rabbis for guidance, and maybe some family, but they will need a social life. For things to change, parents must encourage and help them find schools and housing with friends. You help them there, why not here? For olim, college is free! They get rent subsidies, great health care, parks are safe, and there is good clean fun at 11 PM in the city.
Most of all, they are needed here. Really needed. Israel needs their middos, their minds, their strength, their vision. Their contribution to society is a foundation stone in the Land of their forefathers. The children they will bear validates the lives lost by millions of martyrs in the centuries of our longing for Eretz Yisrael.
The doors are open. Instead of diving into a materialistic society that gives little return on your and their investment, how about encouraging them to strengthen their OWN nation? We have responsibility as the parents of the next generation of builders. You can keep them near you, shepping daily nachas, or let your children go--and reap eternal reward.
There it is, my first attempt at chutzpah-If you don’t like what I have to say, it’s OK-but you know I love you, I mean well and want the best for you because you are my family.
May our children be the ones who finally tip the heavenly scales in our favor, and bring us all home soon.
Renee And David
P.S. In spite of the chutzpah of my driving instructor, or maybe because of it, I am now the proud bearer of an official Israel Drivers License.
Elul awakens us to the Yamim Norim with shofarot, Pesach has its cleaning frenzy then we count down to Shavout. Adar vivaciously announces Purim 14 days in advance. But Chanukah comes in softly. The first signs are the fluffy sufganiot, demurely appearing as the last lulav stands disappear. Tables full of round pillows, blanketed with white powder tempt us at the doorways of bakeries and sandwich shops. Even though I am a Krispy Kreme devotee, my mouth still waters a bit as I pass them by.
Soon enough, decorations follow. Hanging high on electric poles, identical menorahs lit in hundreds of orange bulbs line thoroughfares like Bar Ilan and Canfei Nesharim. Glittery globes and strings of light emerge around town; just enough to remind us that it’s the festival of lights but not enough to distract us from street vendors now selling bottles of essentials: assortments of wicks, oil and bowls for the lights. These are the necessary accessories that outfit homely plain menorahs which Israelis insert into glass boxes that stand outside just about every doorway in the Old City these Chanukah nights.
Except ours. We shunned the austerity of this approach and continued to light our beautiful silver menorah in a window which looks out into a private courtyard, no publicizing the miracle in that. So we had to contort ourselves to light in a tiny ill placed window with a street view in order to fulfill the mitzvah. Until this year, that is.
The transformation happened like this: Just after havdala on the 2nd night, singing and dancing broke out on a street nearby. I grabbed our guests and we ran up to see the sweetest sight. In front of of a three-family courtyard lit with a dozen or so menorahs, fathers and a myriad of little ones sang and danced in a circle, mothers nearby held babies, smiling as two of their yeshiva bachurs skipped around the corner and literally slid, coattails flying, into the circle. “MaOtzur” and other songs echoed in the chilly air of winding Old City streets, as some have the custom to remain outside and sing for a half hour as the flames flicker. Others gathered in warm homes to eat a melave malke of latkes and sour cream.
Still others from all over Israel have the custom to trek into the Old City of Jerusalem during Chanukah. The city supplies free guides to help navigate the confusing alleyways, but some rely on transplants from Atlanta to show them the way. They come in extended families: saftas with wrinkled skin that tells the story of generations in the Land, grand children in Gap jeans and fathers with bare heads wearing t-shirts despite the winter cold. Hundreds and hundreds come every night. They make a lot of noise, leave a lot of trash and we absolutely love them.
We smile and greet them warmly because we are genuinely happy they want to come here. Many Rova families set up tables and serve tea and cookies to the visitors. One woman invites 10 at a time into her home where she has set her dining room table with plates and places for her surprised guests. She gives them cake and talks with them--maybe about her life, maybe about the miracles that brought her to Jerusalem and the Rova. Some of her visitors return year after year.
We view their enchantment with the Rova as an open miracle. Most Israelis never even venture out of the Kotel plaza if they come to Jerusalem at all. Most don’t even know that the Rova is populated, let alone with hundreds of Jews in hundreds of families, let alone with religious people, with olim-- who are really nice.
Imagine their surprise when they ask directions of a resident wearing black and white who barely speaks Hebrew. Our guests want to know how to get to the Kotel, the restaurants, the Churva. They want to find Aish HaTorah’s rooftop Temple display where one can visualize, from this vantage-point overlooking the Temple mount, the Temple itself standing in its rightful place. They pass and gaze at the giant golden Menorah with 7 cups that waits impatiently on the Kotel stairs to assume its vital function in the Bais HaMikdash. All the while they seek out a simple pleasure, the glow of hundreds and hundreds of simple glass boxes holding a few bowls of light.
Now maybe you can understand why we got in a bus on Sunday afternoon to search out and buy one of the few remaining chanukia boxes and paraphernalia, hurrying to arrive home in time to light our own, just like the neighbors. Our chanukia is a little hard to find, we live under-ground and you have to be a bit of a scavenger hunter to find it. But I imagine the squeals of little Jewish children peering around the corner to see the unlikely light by our gate tonight.
I imagine too that it’s very unlikely we are even living here in the city of Yerushalayim behind that gate. And it’s also unlikely that Israeli tourists are drawn to our neighborhood to gaze into the flames of the menorah. Those lights, I am told, reveal miracles if we spend the time to look closely at them- and our lives. Then we begin to see that those things we call “unlikely” are actually the stuff of miracles.
Wishing you a Chanukah Sameyach~
Come home soon,
Renee and David ...
12 Cheshvan 5770
October 30, 2009
Dear Friends and Family,
This morning there were changes in the air. I noticed it crossing through the Kotel plaza as the sleepy sunlight filtered pinks, blues and purples through some of Cheshvan's first clouds. The days of crisp sapphire skies are softening now. Wednesday morning hung with low grey thunderheads that dropped only enough rain to get us scampering for cover and then once we found a dry spot to stand, she gathered up her gifts and strode away. Yesterday on Rechov King George, a little sprinkling sent me into the tachana (covered bus stand) as I stood on the street for the 38. Almost everyone inside whipped out their cellphones to tell their next of kin that it was raining. But not for long.
Today was a very different story. I spent the morning cooking for Shabbos with the door to our courtyard wide open so I could enjoy the cooling autumn air. It began with a rustling sound, something made me thing an animal was scurrying around in the potted plants...and then I realized it was GESHEM!
It rained all afternoon, a long refreshing soaking, exactly the kind we pray for. And it's predicted to rain for another four days.
Thanks Ya'll~ Keep up the good work!
Renee and David ...
13 Tishre 5770
October 1, 2009
Dear Friends and Family,
This Yom Tov season marks our third in Eretz Yisrael. At the end of this third year, we will no longer be “olim chadashim,” new immigrants. Our benefits will be mostly over and we will be counted among the “vatikim,” or old-timers. They say that you are ready to be vatikim when you can help the olim chadashim become more settled. This summer we had the awesome opportunity to see 500 families make aliya and help just a few of them.
As we begin this third time around the cycle of Holidays here, we notice that we no longer have to make mistakes in order to figure out the nuances of what to do, and what to avoid at this time of year. Three times in Judaism means a “chazaka,” a strengthening, or an acceptance of the status quo. Our roots are taking hold and we do feel stronger. We are finally beginning to feel that life here is normal; we are feeling settled. And that in and of itself, is a bit unsettling.
It’s been a long time since we have had this settled feeling so it’s a strange one for us.
Six years ago we set/announced our aliya date and change became our constant buddy. Changes in ourselves and changes in others. After the initial flurry of excitement from our friends and premature requests for lift space, the weight of the decision altered the way we perceived just about everything.
We stopped buying anything we could not use up or bring to Israel. Dry clean clothing was no longer attractive, electronics would need adapters before their usefulness was up, decorative items were surplus, and useful items were ones that served more than one purpose. We hung on to our cars way past their prime. And we hung on to our dearest friends for their support and love as we felt ourselves move from the center of community life.
Our move from Breezy Lane involved divestiture of massive amounts of the familiar items from decades of our shared lives: dishes, plants, art, books, tools, toys, clothes, furniture, knick-knaks, memorabilia, private letters, notes, preschooler drawings and other treasures.
It was traumatic to rid ourselves of the perceived permanence of our lives. And that is exactly why feeling settled again feels so unsettling.
All those “things” we got rid of do not mean a thing when we look up at the crystal blue sky on a weekday morning or watch it turn a majestic sapphire as the Shabbos melts away at dusk. We feel very small, and yet because we sit on a bench in Jerusalem in the year 5770, somehow we also feel mightily significant in the eternal play of history.
It is not that we are living in the most disputed piece of real estate on the planet or that constant awareness of the hovering threat of our decimation by Iran. Most of us are more concerned that we will have rain this year. With good reason. We need an substantial rainy season that will put an end to the drought we are suffering.
Now that Sukkos is knocking at the door to our safe, protected homes, we’ll move out under that crystal sky. When we leave the sukkah, we’ll pray for the rain to fall at the most beneficial times. And in the most beneficial places. And in the most beneficial amounts.
Geshem, rain, means the physical world, the “things” that make us feel safe and secure. We need these things in order to eat, dress, sleep and live in dignity. But sometimes, when things fool us into believing the status quo will endure, it can be too much. Like too much rain, we drown in our stuff.
Last week the news, facebook and twitter-talk was all of ark-building, newly acquired basement swimming pools and impromptu dangerous dips in neighborhood creeks. There were terrible tragedies, too. Unsettling to say the least. Ruby arrived home on Wednesday via Atlanta and gave us a first hand report of the muddy roof-high water she saw flying over the city we called home for 30 years.
Now, our home in Jerusalem is a comfortable rented apartment with a few water problems that our landlords work diligently to protect us from. We recently signed our lease for a third year which again includes a “Moshiach Clause.” This means we’ll iy”H soon be reclaiming a Jewish home in the newly abandoned Muslim Quarter as the owners of our apartment will surely want to settle into their home as our people’s destiny unfolds here.
This clause keeps us from feeling fooled into believing the status quo will endure. And it keeps us aware that it’s not yet time for a Jew to feel settled.
I think living in a sukkah is a bit like living in Israel. Small space, delicious, simple foods, useful furniture, less dependence on material things and much, much more on the benevolence of Hashem. Like the sukkah, none of us will remain in our homes forever, but we can look forward to joining together in the great sukkah when our Moshiach Clause takes effect.
This year you can think of moving into your sukkah as a virtual aliya. Throughout the world, we Jews will all be in our sukkahs, but because we are one people--we’ll be together. And when we move back into our storm-worthy houses, please pray for rain. The good kind, the kind that will make us all able to come home soon.
David and Renee...
16 Av 5769
August 6, 2009
In a couple of hours I will be catching the bus to meet David after his ulpan class. I have to go to have “our foot” x-rayed to see how it is healing. You see, I was walking out of the Old City three weeks ago to meet my Partner in Torah (so exciting, hopefully more about that later) and I turned my ankle, or so I thought.
But over the next couple of days the swelling got worse and my foot was quite the sight, black and blue with a little yellow thrown in for a disgusting touch of color. David went to the medical equipment gemach here in the Rova where we got to use a bit of our newly acquired Ivrit skills to communicate with the gracious non English speakers who run it. Tell them what you need, “gabaim”, leave a check for 18NIS and when we return them, they tear up the check. Keep for as long as you need them, but “refuah shelima.”
I have not spoken about the medical care here, because, B”H we have not needed so much of it. It’s such a timely topic nowadays with Obama’s Health Bill dominating the news. Here in Israel, we have found the medical care here to be thorough, efficient and provided with a capital C for care.
We signed up for Meuchedet, one of the four national insurance providers. They deduct about 450NIS per month from our bank account for the premium. My first encounter included some heart tests ordered because I had an erratic heart rate in America just before I left-I am sure it was stress and nerves about the big move. The tests all turned out normal, B”H.
Navigating the medical system was daunting then because it was unfamiliar and in a language we did not understand. First, I went to my local Meuchedet office, no appointment needed, and waited 15 minutes for the two people in front of me to see the doctor. I walked into her tiny office-consisting of a desk, examining table and small sink-separated from the main hall by only a curtain, to show her my EKG grids from the US. The doctor spoke no English but responded by printing out three papers with directions in Hebrew. I almost burst into tears. She was Russian-no patience with tears. So she took the papers, called the number on one of them and found an English speaker at the main Meuchedet clinic in Jerusalem who walked me through what I needed to do, including directions to get there.
So, the next day I showed up at what we call “Meuchedet HaTurim” on the corner of Jaffa Road and HaTurim for my EKG, pronounced “eh-keh-geh” here, and Holter monitor. I took the elevator to the directed floor and when the door opened I was facing a main desk. I handed my papers to the non-smiling attendant who asked me for –hold on folks-24 shekel, about $8.50 at the time. I was instructed to heder shemona, room 8, where I simply signed my name on a list on the door. The last time I did that was at the gym waiting for the treadmill.
The Meuchedet clinic and rooms have not been touched by the talents of any interior designer. The walls are bare, the floors industrial and black plastic chairs line the walls and halls. I sat for just a few minutes an Anglo woman called me into the small examining room. We told each other our 1-minute aliya stories then she told to lie down and take off my shoes. She efficiently hooked me up and soon sent me on my way, results in hand. Next was the Holter experience, much the same procedure, except I left the offices taped to a meter the size of a small Tehillim that would be my closest buddy for the next 24 hours. I also left with a pass for the metal detectors which as you know hover in front of every restaurant and mall, a genuine smile and a “good luck” from the doctor. Which kind of scared me, did she know something I did not know?
I had to go back two days later to return the monitor and get my results. The results were also entered into the Meuchedet system so that any doctor I visit will have access to the records. I got a recommendation for a wonderful South African physician in Har Nof. It a 20 minute cab ride or 45 minutes on the bus (50NIS vs. 5 on for the bus) each way. I’ll take the bus, thank you. He is worth the scenic trip.
To see Dr. N I needed an appointment. When I showed up, I was directed to the waiting room , also sparse, industrial but friendly feeling, with several people seated in those same black plastic chairs. When the next person entered, she asked us each the time of our appointment in Hebrew, which I though was odd. But everyone announced their time, and I went along-in English. Someone soon came out of the doctor’s door, leaving it ajar and one of my co-patients got up and entered. I soon realized the reason that the woman asked our appointment times was to know her spot in the line-up. No nurse calls you in to take your vitals and escort you to a room where you can wait alone for tens of minutes before seeing the doc.
Dr. N was running about 20 minutes late and when my turn came, I was greeted by a genteel slight man about my age who engaged in the friendly welcome-to-Israel-where-are-you-from-and-a bit-of Jewish-geography before proceeding to swipe my Meuchedet card and enter my entire medical history into the computer. He ordered an array of basic tests which would keep me busy for months. Each doctor I went to was much the same, Anglo, refined, kind and genuinely caring. Not that that is so different from my doctors in the US. Clearly they were less pressured here. I saw one world renowned doctor; it took months to get that appointment. As I was standing at the elevator to leave, I realized I had left my coat in his office. When I turned to go back I saw him running toward me, my coat in hand. Blew me away. Another doctor’s daughter lived in Atlanta for a year, teaching with Torah MiTzion.
My foot is getting better but it’s not a way to spend a summer sitting inside all day. When I am out, every Israeli feels he needs to know what's wrong with my foot. The bus driver makes people get out of the front seat for me. People offer their arm, ask if I need help and say “margisha tova,” feel better, all the time. I was waiting in line at a pharmacy when the customers made me sit and handled my entire transaction, then escorted me out with a roomfull of "refuah shelima”s. This mishap has forced me to converse in Hebrew with well meaning Israelis. And thanks to David, I am getting better at it.
David's summer revolves around Ulpan Morasha: he goes 5 hours a day 5 days a week and has hours of homework and review every day. I've learned a lot by reviewing with him, but he is really learning to speak this language.
Before I enrolled in my easy-going ulpan program, I went for 2 weeks to Ulpan Morasha. It felt like uplan boot camp. I kept asking myself, “I volunteered for this abuse?” The teachers are demanding and expect total submission. They do not explain, they just give over the material and refuse to answer questions. But this system is truly successful for many. You cannot miss a day; you cannot even daydream for one minute. Most can’t maintain the pace and the class is dwindling in size, David says its kind of like “Survivor Island.”
There are many non-Jews in the class, some who want to convert to Judaism and some missionaries who want to convert Jews. Most of the Jews are not observant. Needless to say, David in his black and white and growing beard gets lots of questions. One gentile man wore tzitzis and a baseball cap and kissed the mezuzah but wanted to pick and choose his mitzvos and didn’t care about the Noahide Laws. One girl considering conversion wanted to know where she could "buy a Talmud" so she could look all up those laws. A woman from Finland is in dance school here because she loves Israelis; she lives and volunteers at a Christian youth hostel near Jaffa Gate in the Old City. Another is a young olah learning at Nevey who ended up at our table one Friday night last spring.
As the class gets smaller, the committed students are forming close bonds. In fact we’ll be having an ulpan Shabbos dinner in a few weeks here when my foot is better.
Which I am happy to tell you since I went to the doctor today is on the road to recovery. I no longer am confined to crutches. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get into a real shoe soon, or a even a boot…no, I guess not.
L'habria v' t'vo-u habaiyta bkarov,
(Be well and come home soon)
Rena and David ...
powerful speakers, and now I don't think I can ever speak
LH (loshen hara-gossip, slander, malicious or not)
again (yeah, right..oops, is that LH?)
A capsule of what I learned:
1-If you want to know whom you have decided to be,
listen to the words you decide to say.
2-The key to not speaking LH is
being an anav, a humble person.
Anava doesn't come from seeing how small we are.
Anava comes from seeing H's greatness, His greatness in others
and His greatness in ourselves.
3-Every Jewish neshama comes from the Kesei haKavod because
our purpose is to reveal the greatness of Hashem. We do this by
honoring what is important to Him. What is important to Hashem?
The greatness of every single Jew, including ourselves.
4-Abusing our speech, abuses our humanity. Learn the glory
of the power of speech. Use it to reveal our greatness.
Say kind words, use soft speech, make a sincere apology,
and create bonds with powerful, building statements.
We have a lot of work to do, but the good news is, we can do it!
I can be nothing less than incredibly grateful that learning on
such a level in the Place where we have clearer insights is
available to ME-it can only be zechus avos, that I am here.
Something to live up to. Please read Unburying & Rebuilding.
Go with your greatness.
May we merit to have Tisha B'Av become a Yom Tov this year. ...