R' Avraham Tzvi Schwartz, Har Yona, Nof HaGalil
The very-affordable rent was what originally brought us to the newly-constructed neighborhood of Har Yona two years ago. We had previously been renting in Chaifa for a short while, but being the population center that it is, the rent prices were too high for us. B”H, we are very happy with our neighborhood, and were even able to recently purchase our own apartment here.
We had several different living experiences here in Eretz Yisroel. After getting married, we first lived in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood in Yerushalayim for a few years. I had been learning in Ohr Somayach, then moved on to Yeshivas Torah Ore of Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg ztz”l, and afterwards learned for a while in Yeshivas Mir as well. We then moved to the kehillah of Rav Nachman Bulman ztz”l in the northern city of Migdal HaEmek, where we lived for about three years. Afterwards, we moved to Kiryat Sefer, where we lived for thirty years.
Over the span of our time in Kiryat Sefer, we were witness to its development into a major Chareidi population center. Public transportation, heavily used by the Chareidi population in Eretz Yisroel in general, got much better, with frequent buses connecting Kiryat Sefer to the other Chareidi population centers throughout the country. There were also some buses to cities with smaller Chareidi concentrations, especially on erev Shabbos. Improvements that came with time weren't only in the physical realm; there were also upgrades to shemiras halachah on a city-wide scale. For example, a new large-capacity water tower was built, which would be filled before Shabbos with the entire water supply necessary for the whole city for the entire Shabbos. This would obviate the need for pumping in new water during Shabbos, which may have entailed some halachically problematic functions.
While in Kiryat Sefer, I had the opportunity to teach Torah in English as part of a special kollel framework for retirees. Some of the participants had moved to Kiryat Sefer to be close to their married children and grandchildren, a common phenomenon especially among those with several – or even all – of their children living there. Being that it is difficult at an advanced age to adapt to learning in a "new" language, this kollel helped them pursue Torah growth in their native language.
For five years I had been teaching Torah in South Africa, regularly commuting to and from Kiryat Sefer. After all our children were B”H married and had left the house, we left too. We lived in South Africa for about six years, until moving back to Eretz Yisroel. We first moved to Chaifa, where one of our children lived, and then finally moved here to Har Yona. All in all, living in Eretz Yisroel has been a beneficial experience for our family, in each of the various areas of the country in which we lived.
Har Yona is a very young community with nice, quality bnei Torah. It doesn't bother me that the median age here is several decades less than my own – most heads-of-household here are in their 20's or early 30's – as I am quite young in my character. In fact, being surrounded by all of these young people may actually help me stay that way.
People here are serious about their Yiddishkeit, with a high standard of bein adam lachaveiro. They are easy-going and easy to live with, friendly and community-conscious. As is common in Eretz Yisroel, many young families often travel to their parents for Shabbos, and they make their vacant apartments available to their neighbors for hosting relatives, or for hosting those interested in checking out the community. People seeking apartments for hosting, or any other help, use the phone-based or online community WhatsApp groups. There is much chessed happening here, such as the organized help extended to women after birth. The community atmosphere is very special and everyone helps each other.
In addition to the constant stream of families coming to join the community as construction progresses, there is a lot of natural growth as the young families grow larger. There are local Talmudei Torah, a girls school, and kollelim as well.
The mountainous scenery here in the Lower Galilee is beautiful. The weather here is comfortable all year round. In the winter it is not as cold as in Yerushalayim, and in the summer it is very pleasant even without air-conditioning.
Though there are several people in the community who are children of American immigrants, there is not much of an infrastructure for English speakers here yet; for anyone interested in joining, it would be important that they be able to communicate with the local Hebrew speakers at least at some level.
Our future is here in Eretz Yisroel. Simply living here is already a contribution to yishuv Eretz Yisroel; even just being a part makes the community stronger. From my own experience, I believe this is true for all of Eretz Yisroel.
Providing a Home in Eretz Yisroel
Years ago, while my parents lived in South Africa, they also owned an apartment here in Eretz Yisroel. When I first came to Eretz Yisroel to learn, I was able to utilize the apartment. This definitely helped me settle here.
My father passed away a few years ago. Now, in our own home in Eretz Yisroel, my mother lives with us. We are grateful to be able to fulfill the great mitzva of kibbud horim, and in a small way return all that was done for us…