Aryeh and Shoshana Weinberg, Ma'aleh Amos
In 1996, while we were in our late thirties, we moved from Baltimore to Eretz Yisroel with our six children aged sixteen down to one and a half.
Although many rabbonim do not recommend moving to Eretz Yisroel with children from ages eight through high school, we came with the blessing of our rav in Baltimore, Rav Mendel Feldman, ZT”L.
We spent our first year in an absorption center in Mevaseret Zion (just outside Yerushalayim), with no idea of where we would eventually settle. This temporary setup (which no longer exists there) enabled us to: live rent-free for the first half year; attend ulpan, with a free daycare on the premises; and send our children to schools in nearby Telz-Stone and Yerushalayim. Additionally, it gave us the opportunity to see many communities around the country, which was thanks to trips organized by the absorption center and by Tehilla (an organization that conducted pilot trips, organized field trips in search of communities, and provided emotional support to new religious immigrants in the days before Nefesh B’Nefesh). Moreover, we had the opportunity to meet many other new immigrants with whom we could exchange information about job and community searches and give and receive emotional support.
We discovered Ma’aleh Amos by taking rides with other absorption center residents who were looking at various communities. Many aspects of Ma’aleh Amos appealed to us.
The small size classes in the Bais Yaakov and Talmud Torah elementary schools were five to ten students on average. This was wonderful compared to the class sizes in Yerushalayim of up to forty students. Also, the fact that school was about a two-minute walk from home was appealing.
The relatively inexpensive cost of housing was also appealing. We first rented a four-bedroom home, and then eventually built our current home in the empty lot next-door, as part of a project that included eight homes, for a fraction of rental and sale prices in Yerushalayim.
We also appreciated the small and intimate community with only about fifty families at the time. The rav, HaRav Z’ev Wolf Charlop, Shlit”a, who is English-speaking, is an approachable talmid chochom who understood the issues faced by American immigrants. (Having an accessible rav was always of primary importance to us). Many of the families here were also immigrants from the U.S. or from the former U.S.S.R. Since we were all without family, we became each other’s family and support system. Even the Israeli families did not have family nearby, so they became part of this support system as well.
Ma’aleh Amos is an easy commute to Yerushalayim. It is about a half-hour drive to Gilo at the southern end of Yerushalayim, or about a one-hour bus ride to the city's main entrance. When we moved here, my husband worked in a high-tech park in Yerushalayim, which made for a very reasonable commute for him.
Ma’aleh Amos is in a quiet area where the Judean Hills and the Judean Desert meet. It has a remarkable view of the Yam Hamelach and the mountains of Jordan. We see a lot of sky here. The amazing view, the quiet, and the feeling of being in nature and not in a congested city was very appealing to us. During a simple walk in the yishuv (small settlement), we can see sheep on the nearby hills, sometimes a family of camels, and many other interesting animals and plants. The quiet, calm, and small-town atmosphere is very conducive to ruchniyus growth through participation in yishuv life and having time to learn, whether in shiurim, with a chavrusa, or on your own. We don’t have all the conveniences of the city, but on the other hand, we do not have to deal with a hectic and urban pace of life. As I tell other people, the only time people rush here is to catch the bus—because the next one won’t be leaving for several hours.
We also liked the fact that there were enough English-speaking families for us to feel comfortable. At the same time, we did not want to live in an American “bubble,” but rather in a yishuv that operates in Hebrew, so that we and our children would pick up Hebrew quickly and befriend people of various nationalities.
Boruch HaShem, we felt comfortable here from the very first day—our children were already playing with neighbors their age while the movers were still unloading the moving truck!
Just a brief postscript on our employment: Aryeh is a CPA who currently works for Roth & Co., a frum NY-based accounting firm that recently opened up an auditing office in Yerushalayim. (They’re looking for more accountants.) I am a freelance translator, working from home.
Just as HaShem supplied Bnei Yisroel with all their needs in the desert, He has taken care of our parnassah needs here—in the middle of nowhere!
Several people from our area work in schools and day-care centers either in the local mosdos, in nearby yishuvim, or in Gush Etzion, Beitar, or Yerushalayim. They are teachers, rebbeim or assistants in the Bais Yaakovs, Talmud Torahs or preschools.
A few are employed by the yishuv in various positions, mostly part-time, in the capacity of handyman/gardener, secretary, klita (absorption) coordinator, youth directors, librarian, post office administrator, community coordinator, cultural and activity coordinators, security director, and cleaning the schools, offices and mikvaos.
Some work from home as architects and interior designers, by running businesses from their home, or in other types of work for companies with American hours.
Two residents are bus drivers. One resident owns and operates the makolet (grocery store) with the help of some part-time cashiers who fill in when he is not available.
Several new residents work in Yerushalayim, Beitar or in various Gush Etzion communities as medical or other secretaries, in stores, government offices, or in security positions.
Some women operate their own day care or preschool programs in their homes or in public buildings here, or work in day-care centers here or in nearby yishuvim. Several sofrim work locally, and one resident has a batim business for tefillin.
Some are independently employed, including a construction contractor and a painter.
Two male residents are nurses in Yerushalayim. Some people work part-time as chugim leaders for exercise or crafts classes, here or in other communities. There’s really something for everyone.