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A Better Focus


Shmuel Diamond, Sanhedriya, Yerushalayim


Living in Eretz Yisroel helped me understand that the world I had come from was not the only normal and functioning reality, as the Western world might make people feel. There may be nothing more correct about two yellow lines delineating a no-parking zone, as it is in my hometown of London, England, than any other way of delineating the area. In one banking system, the banks act as if you are doing them a favor by depositing your money with them, and they pay you for doing so; in another, it's them doing you the favor, and you have to pay for it (maybe here in Eretz Yisroel it's more like that...). In many areas, there is no default, correct way of doing something. This understanding made it easier for me to cope with the differences.

The reality here is just different. It includes how business is done here – I may have to be persistent, stubborn, and unrealistic in order to get things done. It includes having workmen in my house, and learning that when they tell me they'll be here at ten in the morning that's not necessarily what they actually mean. Learning to be more easy-going and flexible definitely helps one function within this reality.

One of the things I appreciate here is the lack of pettiness. This may apply to some places in chutz laAretz as well, and may not apply to all of Eretz Yisroel, but it is the general atmosphere here. If someone would scratch someone else's car, it probably wouldn't be made into a big deal. People are just busy doing chesed, working to pay their rent or mortgage, and to put food on the table; keeping up with the Joneses is just not part of the culture.

What might be misconceived as a certain haughtiness of some of the people here is, I think, just a product of another aspect of the culture here; there's a lack of intellectual sophistication that maybe makes it more difficult for them to relate to other people's reality. It is this same temimus though, that makes for a more profound emunah, not necessarily achieved by the intellect but just as a natural part of these people's reality. It might also be their directness and no-frills honesty that creates this misconception. Understanding the source of this perceived “arrogance” can prevent a lot of frustration. The more intellectually inclined who come here can get along in this atmosphere – the fact is, the likes of a rabbi, an accountant, a doctor and a lawyer can all find their place within our community.

In Eretz Yisroel it is difficult to be a “someone.” In the Torah-learning world, for example, one would have to be a tremendous Torah scholar to stick out. This aspect of life in Eretz Yisroel has taught me a lesson in life: It's fine to be a nobody (in a sense of social status; of course, not in a ruchniyus sense). This is anathema to the Western culture I grew up in.

I have learned that to be part of a community here doesn't mean you have to be part of a chassidus or a specific shul or kollel. Many locales, such as where I live, in the Sanhedriya neighborhood of Yerushalayim, have a community feel.

At least in the Chareidi world here, there is not much consumerism. This causes there to be a slower cash flow and a more limited cash supply. When there's less money floating around – it's less common here to have a gym subscription, replace a couch or kitchen, go on a holiday, or own a car – the economy moves much slower. Around the Yomim Tovim there is a marked increase in cash flow and activity – lulav & esrog, matzos, etc.

Although, as may be found elsewhere in the world, there are many financially disadvantaged families here, there is a benefit to that in a bit of a backwards kind of way. It's not like they live in another community removed from my conscience; as a part of my community I see them close up, I can sense the urgency of their need, and I can actually witness how the help extended to them can go a far way in helping them. It makes my giving more real. There is also less of a shame to their poverty; after all, their lifestyle is the same as many of their neighbors.

Yiddishkeit in general is more experiential here. There is a tangible spiritual dimension that even children can relate to, which cannot be found elsewhere. Instead of a mundane trip to a Six Flags attraction, we take our kids on trips which can include a hike and some cave climbing, with a climax of reaching one of the mekomos hakedoshim and saying a kapitel Tehilim there. The Kosel, Kever Shimon HaTzaddik, and Kever Shmuel HaNavi are all within easy reach here in Yerushalayim, as are shuls of historical interest. This is true of other areas in Eretz Yisroel, especially when traveling up north.

It is in this culture and background, with all its differences, that our children are growing up. Also, my lack of proficiency in Hebrew actually benefits my children; they know how to speak English very well, as that is the language we speak in at home. They attend Chassidish schools where the language of instruction is Yiddish, so they are actually trilingual. All in all, we are all very happy here.

A 'Picture' of My Business Here

Growing up, I had a hobby of taking pictures, mostly for family and friends. After coming to learn in yeshivah here, I put down my camera in order to concentrate on my learning. After several years here, and at the encouragement of one of my roshei yeshivah, I got back into photography for parnassah.

Soon after I started, I was contacted by a frum woman who was interested in doing photography. This was a big siyatta d'Shmaya for me, as I didn't want to take pictures of women, and therefore needed a female photographer. Many of my friends were getting married at the time, and we did their wedding photography, which helped my business initially take off.

Five years ago I opened the Shmuel Diamond School of Photography, which has B”H been very successful. Additionally, I started teaching online about three years ago, allowing me to tap into a huge base of clients while living here In Eretz Yisroel.

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