June 7, 2007
21 Sivan 5767
Parshat Shelach 5767

Dear Friends and Family,

This coming Shabbat, the Torah portion Shelach that recalls the sin of the spies, is read. These were the 12 men that Moshe sent to scout out the Land of Israel before entering. When they returned, their reports were distorted and negative and caused a 40 year delay before the Children of Israel could enter.

Today despite the challenges that come with living in Israel, we are witness to all that is good and special about living here and it is in our ability to tell our family, friends and neighbors abroad what those things are.

Nefesh B'Nefesh is initiating a simple project this week called "12 to 12". They requested that every Oleh to compose a list of 12 great things you appreciate and love about living in Israel and email our message to 12 (or more) friends abroad.

As the Torah portion recalling the sin of the 12 spies is being read this week, I'm writing to share with you 12 things that are special about living in Israel. And in case any of my previous emails shed a negative light on living here, I include one more reason, just to cover my bases.

-Love, Renee & David

1. The FedEx guy, the mailman, the pharmacist, the checkout girl at the Supersol, the garden shop guy where I went to buy plants for David’s garden, the used bookstore owner, the bus driver, the guard at the restaurant, the mall, the bus station, any office building —every one of them is Jewish, some are even tzaddikkim.

2. This may seem shallow, but the restaurants. Not eating out per se, but feeling like company more than customers. We went to a place called Grill Bar because it had been highly recommended but they were closed for a private party. The guard in his black velvet kippa and long peyot saw my disappointment and graciously invited us to sit next to him at an outside table. We were served by a delightful young woman who taught me some Ivrit (selek is beets) in exchange for my English (bamia is okra). The food was fresh and almost as delicious as the air. By the way, the private party inside was for a group of secular French tourists who danced and sang the night away. The band began with lounge music and quickly, at the groups demand, changed to “Am Yisrael Chai,” “hava negila,” and other USY favorites!

3. They sell everything from drills and nails, to sheets and silicone baking pans, funky ice cube trays, Shabbat accessories and even vodka (right next to the chewing gum at the checkout line) at the local version of Target. The merchandise displays are...let’s say-random, never pretentious.

4. The fruits-especially watermelon- and vegetables-especially tomatoes- taste absolutely wonderful. Olive oil comes from local farmers and the fresh herbs are bug free.

5. Your bag gets checked going into the mall rather than upon leaving.

6. Everyone asks for directions...even men.

7. The buses. With a chofshi-monthly bus pass-I can criss-cross the city for 26 days for only 216NIS. Young girls get up for old women (sadly, I qualified as one for whom a girl relinquished a seat yesterday). If you don’t know where you are going, the bus driver tells you where to get off and the woman behind you tells you which bus would have been better to get you to your destination.

8. The views bring tears to my eyes. I was at the Customs office today in Givat Shaul. The vista of hills upon hills from the wall of windows in the lobby was breathtaking. A couple of weeks ago, we ate lunch at the mall when we went to get the first step of Driving License testing done. The panorama from the food court was actually holy.

9. Apricot trees with bright orange egg shaped bundles of fruit dangling. Bougainvillea.

10. The Old City: walking in the quiet streets to the Kotel for shacharis (sometimes at dawn), running down for mincha through tour groups (including the Weber School on tour led by my childhood friend Rachael Zebrak), David davening maariv in the sweet evening air with hundreds of men including Chaim Neuberger. In the Old City: Gedolim walk through the streets everyday. A woman at the 38 bus stop asked me what it was like to go to sleep every night so close to G-d.

11. The air lends a clarity that is uniquely available to the Jew who seeks it.

12. The sapphire sky reminds us that we walk at the footstool of the Kisey HaKavod, the Throne of Hashem.

13. To have our dream realized. We live in the Land that our doros v’doros (generations) before us prayed for, wrote, sang and spoke lovingly about. It was their dream, too. Today it’s so easy to get on a plane, visit, then return to the comfort of America, that many say they do not yearn to live here, but certainly their neshama does.

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