The last few weeks have been filled with lots of job interviews (for Eric) and soul searching. Eric’s been making lots of good contacts in the biotech and medical fields, and has been criss crossing the country like mad for interviews. Meanwhile we’ve visited several communities throughout the year: Modiim, Abi Ezer, Tzur Hadassah, Haifa (that was in March), Rehovot. And we’re thinking about going up to the Galilee and visiting a small town started up by the Conservative movement called Shorashim.
Our visit to Rehovot a couple weeks ago was 1/2 a family visit and 1/2 an aliyah visit. We spent part of Friday and Saturday with Eric’s cousin Hannah. We don’t spend enough time with them, and they are really such good, generous people. I’m fortunate to have cousins on both sides whom I feel comfortable talking with and being with. We especially need to have good family ties here since all of our nuclear family is based in the U.S.
We just found out that Hannah got married(!) to a lovely person whom she’s been with for 13 years. She told us about being sternly lectured to by a religious woman about nidah (female purity laws) and sexual intercourse. As if the Orthodox establishment needs to find more ways to turn people off to Judaism!
On Saturday we went to a modern Orthodox shul predominated by Anglos. Really friendly crowd, and I liked the services too. I must have introduced myself 20 different times–and that was before the lunch. Folks seem pretty laid back in this town and the anglo community looks out for one another. Rehovot is substantially less expensive than Jlem, which makes it appealing, although it does not offer as much in terms of commerce and entertainment as a place like Tel Aviv or Jlem.
So right now we’re weighing the options of places to live. It’s definitely not set in stone, but it would be nice to settle down here as quickly as possible and avoid prolonged limbo periods. Different factors to consider: housing costs, career viability, livable environment, schools, religious diversity, community support, ability to assimilate, mobility without a car, medical centers. I’ve laid it out all on several excel spreadsheets, methodically listing the advantages and disadvantages of each place. The big factors are definitely housing and career.
On the one hand Jlem has so much to offer in terms of community life and amenities and it’s commutable to the coastal plain (if Eric gets a job there) but on the other hand it is so freakin’ expensive. We could never afford a house here. (Thank you Americans and French people who buy property here, jack up the prices and only come for the holidays.)
We could live in a town near Jlem, which can be significantly cheaper but these places are a bit isolated, have fewer shul options, do not have as much to offer in terms of amenities, and you can’t get around without a car. Although lots of people love it there, I just couldn’t get into Modiim–which is actually a big city, but it feels more like a suburb without a city.
On the other hand, I’m looking at some small places in the Galil, which is much more affordable and is just a beautiful part of the country. Lots of open space for kids to run around (sorry for the cliche). Some of the towns engage in a lot of dialogue efforts with the local Arab community. But, the number one thing that deters people from moving up there is employment. In other words, there has to be some viable work opportunity for us to pull it off. We also like Haifa, which is a very livable city near the beach and Carmel, but again we’d have to see if employment opportunities would pan out.
Unfortunately the coastal plain and Jlem seems to suck in a lot of the jobs. These days I’m not too much of a fan of living in the coastal area right now. The Tel Aviv region is reaaally expensive, and some parts look like typical coastal Israeli cities–crappy concrete towns. It kind of sounds like the dilemma of living in a place like NY or DC. All the action is in the cities, but since everyone wants to be there, you have to live in a shoebox.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my sharing our exploratory process. If one of these readers happens to be a new oleh, perhaps you might find my perspective useful. Or maybe not.
It hasn’t been all serious and soul searching. Last week, Eric and I went to the Galilee for my birthday for a few days. We stayed in a lovely B&B in Tzipori, called Tzipori Village. A funny coincidence is that the owners, Mitch and Suzy, went to Pardes some time ago and know some of our teachers! The zimmer housed four cottages along with a pomegranate grove, an olive grove (from which they make olive oil), and a small winery. They also make their own honey. For breakfast, they served us cheeses and milk from the local goat farm, organic bread and their own olive oil. The town has lots of other appealing things for tourists to do: there’s a horse ranch, a spa, a mosaics gallery, and some other stores.
The moshav of Tzipori is located close to the archaelogical site Tzipori, which features some sophisticated Roman mosaics. As the Israel Nature and National Parks site relates:
“Sites of interest at the Zippori National Park include the 4,500-seat Roman theater, built on the slope overlooking the Beit Netofa Valley and the Upper Galilee mountains (some of the seats have been reconstructed); the living quarter from the mishnaic and talmudic periods; the Crusader fortress on top of the hill, visible from a great distance; the villa built in the early third century with illustrations from the life of Dionysis, the Greek god of wine (the stunning mosaic in this building is known as the Mona Lisa of the Galilee); the Roman-period lower city with its carefully laid-out series of parallel and perpendicular streets; the Nile Mosaic building, a large fifth-century structure with an ornate mosaic floor depicting the festival held when the level of the Nile River reached its highest point; and the giant underground waterworks”
The site also features an ancient synagogue with a mosaic of the Zodiac. The Jews recycled this pagan symbol for their own religious purposes, designating each sign as a different month of the year. Moreover this image was no longer seen as a threat, since by the time the mosaic was made, Christianity had spread throughout the Roman Empire. The mosaic also featured remnants of the scene where Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac . At the top of the mosaic closest to where the ark would be, imagery alluding to the Temple in Jerusalem predominates: sacred objects used in the Temple service and the Temple doors flanked by two menorahs.
In addition to checking out Tzipori, Eric drove us up to the Hula Valley Nature reserve. In season, the reserve serves as temporary home for thousands of birds on the migratory route to Africa. Next we went south to see the remnants of Beit Alfa, an ancient synagogue with a naively drawn mosaic featuring the same imagery that we say in Tzipori. (It looks like all of the mosaics of this time period were drawn from a template. I’ve seen pictures of the mosaic in Tiberius which also shares similar themes.) At the end of the day we stopped at a spring not far from Beit Alfa called Gan Shlosha, and swam in its large outdoor pool. Lots of Israelis had the same idea as us.
The next morning I spent some time walking around the grounds of Tzipori Village and taking some pics. We then traveled south again to a park called Nachal Tabor, which is near the Crusador fortress Montfort and is located in the southern part of the Galil. It’s a beautiful hike, but it was really hot and we didn’t feel like hiking for hours. So we took an alternative path that wound up in the hills and came upon a vast field of wheat and a cattle pasture. I took lots of interesting, artsy shots while up there.
That was basically our trip. I forgot to mention this great kosher meat place we ate at for my birthday, although I can’t remember the name. If you’re ever up in Tzipori Village, you can ask the owner about the place.
I feel like this entry is worth 2-3 normal entries. So you probably won’t hear from me again until next week. I need a break!