Where Living in Israel is Not as Hard as You Think…
As life returns to normal in the towns and cities ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, more and more spiritual leaders are openly stating what has moved to the forefront of every Jewish mind. The time has come for the People of Israel to return home.
When we talk about aliyah, we like to use epic terms like Redemption, Ingathering, even Armageddon. We tend to overlook the basic logistics involved. Living in Israel is one big step made up of several small details.
Allow me to submit to you a very practical solution: Efrat.
Efrat is a small suburb of Jerusalem. It hosts around 7,000 residents, half of which are American immigrants. It is situated on a series of hills, each named after one of the seven species Hashem blessed the Land with. As we speak, the town is expanding to the north, west, and east. It sits among the Judean Hills. There are no tall buildings so you can see the valleys, clouds, olive groves, trees, and all of G-d’s natural majesty for miles. Each morning you can sip your coffee watching the sun emerge from behind the Moab mountains in Jordan. Every evening you can catch the matinée as the sun retires beyond the Judean landscape. Most days you can see the sun and the moon in the sky at the same time. At night you can see every star in the sky. During a full moon, the light of this heavenly sphere reflects off the sand. It creates so much light, the outside looks like daytime at midnight. The sight is as awesome as it is surreal.
Efrat is Hashem’s fertility clinic. The root letters of Efrat, Pey and Resh, form the root letters for Poru – oVroo – be fruitful and multiply. Even with a population of 7,000 people, half of which are not of child bearing age, a baby is born here every 48 hours! Our daily life proves the medrash which describes the connection between Efrat and having many babies!
We are a religious community, but a patient one. The majority of residents are knitted kippa, with a handful of Haredi Jews. We keep a standard of religious and moral conduct without judging others for where they are holding. There is a men’s mikveh, two women’s mikveh, and over 30 Shuls spanning Ashkenaz, Sefardi, Carlebach, American themed, Israeli themed, and caravan.
Located near the center of the country, It is an 18 minute car ride to the holy gravesite of our matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem, 35 minutes to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron, and 45 minutes to the Kotel at the heart of our capital city. You are 20 minutes from Jerusalem, 30 minutes from Beit Shemesh (another American populated town), 60 minutes from Tel Aviv, 75 minutes from Ashdod or Ashkelon, and 50 minutes from where the desert meets the northern point of the Dead Sea – a great place to spend an evening with your loved one. In a small country such as ours, getting away from it all is very convenient!
Efrat is primarily an English speaking town. We have two pizza parlors, a bagel store, and even a place to buy doughnuts and a slurpee! Where neighborhoods in Manhattan are called Chinatown and Little Italy, Efrat is the “Little America” of Israel. You can move here and integrate into Israeli culture and society at your own pace. If you feel comfortable with who you are, you can still take immense gratification in watching your children grow up to be genuine Sabras. Every child speaks fluent Hebrew. Most children speak English, too.
With each passing day, Redemption gets closer. Every Jew on earth will return to Israel. G-d willing, it will be under pleasant circumstances. As the signs Hashem are sending us become louder and more pronounced, the window to move with comfort and ease is slowly closing. While you are weighing your options, consider Efrat. Discover that living in Israel is not as hard as you think.
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Dovber Halevi is the author of Sex, Religion, and the Middle East, a book about personal holiness and happiness. He lives in Israel with his wife and three children.