Throwing Darts at a Map

2:17 PM 0 Comments

So there we are several months ago. Rachel and I made the decision to go to Israel, but where should we go? What community would suit us? To answer this, we relied heavily on the Nefesh B'Nefesh community database that seems to be updated fairly regularly. Perhaps we did not really use it to decide where to go, but more where not to go. Jerusalem? Too expensive. Tel Aviv? Yup, still too expensive. Modiin? RBS? Nope. Nope. Hmm ... where?

If anyone out there reading this has gone through the process before, they can probably similarly attest to the fact that NBN's staff is great at playing community-matchmaker. They learn about you and try suggesting places you may like to visit on a pilot trip. And we got lots of great suggestions from them, and from people we know. Almost too many. I even made a Google Map showing potential landing spots with color-coded icons and links. Quite frankly we were overwhelmed by the prospect of having to find a hometown.

The problem was that we knew that life in Israel will be different. And for that reason we were just as willing to go to an urban environment as a small town. Flexibility and adaptability are the name of the game. We could not narrow the list down. We only had a few criteria that we would not budge on: (1) education/environment for the kids, (2) religious community, and (3) affordability. Of course we had other criteria as well, but MANY places in Israel seemed to fit the bill. Queue the anxiety.

We then spoke with people from the Go South program and spent some time learning more about communities in the Negev. We started exploring the First Home in the Homeland program through the Jewish Agency, and were introduced by at least two people to the concept of moving to a Yishuv (ie. a small town) about 20 miles south of the major southern city of Beer Sheva.

That Yishuv is Kfar Retamim.

Here it is on a map:

That is where we are going to make our new home ... at least for the foreseeable future. As a part of the First Home in the Homeland program, we will have a "soft" landing for he first 6 months, with an option to stay for one year. We will have a partially furnished apartment, schools for the kids in walking distance, and a community of young families all with the ideals of building a stronger Israel. This will afford us an opportunity to spend a maximum amount of time focusing on the children and on our integration.

Since Rachel and I are--at least in part--embarking on this journey to find a community of like-minded people to live among, we had been (and still are) worried about finding the right people to help us. I feel like a kid on the night before the first day of high school. What if no one likes us? What if our kids do not make friends? What if I forget to take my retainer out? (Oops, I didn't mean that last one) What if, what if, what if?

I am happy to say that so far, the people in Retamim have been extraordinarily helpful and supportive of us. I suppose time will tell. But, for right now, I could not be happier that we chose Retamim, and that Retamim chose to have us. I look forward to making the most of this opportunity.

Once we land, I cannot wait to report back to you about our journey.


The Reasons for Aliyah

11:25 PM 0 Comments

There are less than 15 workdays left before the big move. As the end of the month quickly approaches, I am letting more and more people know about our plans everyday. I realize that this is HUGE and I am sure feels out of the blue to many. I get it. I really believe that it is the right thing for Adam, the kids, and myself to be doing, but that does not make it all sunshine and rainbows. There are so many things that I am excited about, so many things I am anxious and nervous for, and still also things I am terribly sad about. We have put many hours of thought, research and discussion into this decision it wasn't made lightly. There are many factors that have contributed to the why, where, and when of our choice. 

There are the practical "religious" reasons. We want to go before the kids start school as we believe the transition will be easier for them; the younger they are the faster they will pick up the language. Affordable Jewish education (which in Israel is synonymous with public school) and the ability to live in a community with like minded peers are things that are very important to us. Although the community we live in here in the States is quite nice, and we have made some friends that we consider to be like minded, it's not the same as being surrounded by people who, for instance, don't have to ask what the weird hut-thing in our backyard is.  There isn't a place here where that is possible. 

Then there are the Zionistic reasons. Jews have fought for thousands of years to have a place of our own, for a safe place to go and live and practice our faith. I feel like being there we can be a part of something to help ensure that Israel continues to exist for the Jews that need it. I want to raise my children in this place. We are going for these reasons and so very many more. We know that many aspects of life in Israel will be easier (Shabbos, Kashrus etc...) and many will be just plain hard, but we also believe the cliche that nothing worth having is easy.  So those are some of the "we" reasons--let me tell you all about the "me" reasons.

Over the years, Adam and I have been on a journey of increasing observance of mitzvot, and I know that often I allow the increases to be pinned on him. I have during much of this time have also been on a journey. It started for me when I was dealing with infertility, I questioned a lot, I prayed a lot and finally I gave in to the idea that I had no control. I visited the Mikvah and was given the blessing of a healthy pregnancy and a beautiful baby boy. I took the same attitude again and quickly became pregnant with Tzippy. A daughter. I have a difficult (putting it mildly) relationship with my mom. It has never been easy. 

Finding out I was having a daughter helped me realize who I wanted to be. This is when I started wearing skirts and following many of the laws of Tznius (modesty). I want my daughter to look at the woman I am with pride. She may not want to "be like me" for very many reasons. But, I will do all that I can for that not to be because she views me as weak or hypocritical. 

I have spent my life knowing who I don't want to be, running from who I could have become. I am finally running to the person I do want to be. Strong. Independent. Humble. Modest. And I strive to be so much more than that as well.

We know that this decision affects everyone around us. It is difficult and sad. The hardest part for us is not just leaving family and friends but seeing the hurt on people's faces and hearing it in their voices. We know that you may not agree with or even understand our decision, but we ask that you respect that it is our decision and try to support us in making our dream reality.


Why this decision?

10:35 PM 0 Comments

Since making this decision, I continue to ask myself "why." Not that I do not have an inherent knowledge that our decision is right. Of course I do. I would not make such a decision lightly. It is a hard choice, yet the right choice. But I continue to ask myself what is the reason—put into words—for making this decision? And it is the words that seem elusive, not the correctness of the decision. How do I rationalize the decision? How do I explain it to others?

I am sensitive to the family and friends that are saddened and hurt by our choice. For you, and for me, I am attempting to write out my reasons, and explore the decision in this blog. At the least, I envision this blog being a personal story about a family of five moving from New England to the Negev. At best, I hope it can be a place for Rachel and I to explore ourselves and share our journey with the people we love. Maybe we all can learn something about ourselves in the process.

Before figuring out the "why", here is the "what" of our decision.

Rachel and I are making Aliyah to Israel to a small Yishuv (community) in the Negev desert called Kfar Retamim. I look forward to writing about Retamim and how we chose that community above anywhere else. We intend to make the journey that so many generations before us have been unable to do. We shall carry the banner forward, and partake in the historical story that is currently unfolding in the land of Eretz Yisrael. This has been a decision brewing for many years. We are just now gathering the courage to put it into action. It is exciting. Exhilarating. Overwhelming. Scary. Etc. Etc. Etc. Yet through all of the emotions, I keep coming back to the yearning, and the comfort of the decision. Despite not knowing entirely what to expect when we land, I am confident that Rachel and I will be providing a wonderful and unique opportunity for our children to be a part of something special.

To be honest, Israel was not important to me growing up. It was a place far away of which all I knew was based upon some dusty-looking photographs on postcards when I was a child in Hebrew school. What could I possibly care about a piece of land so far away? Yet, our decision today does not seem foreign to me. It seems natural, and it seems like it has always been a part of me.

The first time that I can recall actually thinking seriously about Aliyah was in law school. Who brought up the first conversation about it? I do not remember. Perhaps Rachel, perhaps myself. It does not matter. I do, however, remember the sense of duty and obligation that I felt, and that continues to drive me.

Perhaps what I find  most striking of all is the confidence that I feel that Aliyah is right for my family. Rachel and I want our children to grow in an environment steeped in our traditions. To be a part of a history and a something grander than the sum of its parts. An opportunity that we know we will regret if we do not proceed.

From where does the confidence stem? For a person who still finds himself on a religious journey, confidence comes from somewhere deeper. It comes from the cumulative effects of the people and events that have shaped my life. Good, bad, or indifferent. Never have I been so happy with my lot in life, and the direction of my future. And for this, I thank everyone who has ever contributed to my life. Our decision is not in spite of anyone or anything that has happened to us. Rather, it is because we feel confident enough in our decisions and our ideals that we learned and developed through life interactions with family and friends.

And in these days when Israel and so many of its people (whether Israeli citizens or not) are hurting, it becomes ever more evident that our choice is right. The irrationality of it all brings me back to the question of why, and the difficult nature of finding the right words. The issue is that our choice is not one of the mind. It is not one  of reason and purpose. We are moving to Israel based upon our emotions and our connections that exist outside this world. There is no logic. Or, if there is, it does not motivate us the way that we are drawn towards the fulfillment of the dream of the generations.

While the decision is hard, the choice is not.