Tzvi Moshe Arnstein, Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel
We came to Eretz Yisroel in the summer of 2014 after living in Lakewood for almost seven years. Being "in-towners" originally from Monsey and Flatbush, moving to Eretz Yisroel wasn't really the "in" thing to do, so why did we?
We always had a soft spot for Eretz Yisroel, but, like most people, we didn't think it was realistic for us to live here long-term, so we settled in Lakewood, New Jersey like everyone else. After being inspired by a friend, I started to research the significance of living in Eretz Yisroel and how it has recently become exponentially more practical. At some point it dawned on me that Eretz Yisroel today is actually a most-amazing opportunity presented by HaShem, and I wanted to be a part of this project that was bringing us to Klal Yisroel's ultimate destiny.
Before we immigrated to Eretz Yisroel, we went to get a bracha from Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlit"a. He clearly stressed the importance of making sure that my wife would be happy there. It also seemed very important to him that we had a plan for parnassah, which we were indeed confident about. At that time, I was working for a tech company that would let me take my job with me, so we didn't have any excuse not to go. Working American hours in Eretz Yisroel meant that the mornings would be utilized for learning (what a better way to start a day), shopping and other errands, and this is something that many others are doing in our community in Eretz Yisroel.
Although my family would miss us, they respected the idea and were very supportive. My wife had two brothers already living in Eretz Yisroel, which made it much easier. WhatsApp and Skype can't replace the real thing, so our parents now come visit about once a year, and we go once every few years for the summer.
We settled in Ramat Beit Shemesh, which has many nice American Yeshiva-style communities like where we came from. There are tens of shuls which range from yeshivish to balebatish to heimish. Some are into integrating with Israelis, while others work to create an entirely American environment. We have found American immigrants who have been successful coming with children of all ages, but they generally live in the more American neighborhoods that seem more appropriate for such a move. It is of course easier to integrate when the kids are younger.
Most people in my community are those who have stayed on for long-term after coming to Eretz Yisroel for yeshiva, and mostly originated in out-of-town communities; though I do know other people, besides myself, who have come here directly from in-town places like Lakewood and Monsey.
As our oldest child was turning six when we came here, chinuch was already at the forefront of our minds. People had warned us that things are different in Eretz Yisroel and there aren’t any schools that have the variety and balance that you’ll find in the U.S. When doing our research, a very different picture emerged, and when we arrived, we were glad to see that our fears about chinuch were unfounded. B"H, there are many schools that cater to Americans like us, some geared to kollel families, others with a working parent body, and then some more that are in between. In general, the schools with higher percentages of Americans seem to be more balebatish, and the ones more kollel-oriented seem to have a higher percentage of Israelis, though there are exceptions.
I think that we frum Yidden coming from America have what to contribute to society in Eretz Yisroel. For one, many of us bring a can-do attitude—we won't just take situations as a given but will try to improve them. Another is the fact that we are proud and content to be hard-working and self-supporting ehrlicher Yidden. For us, after five or ten years of learning, this is just a new and different phase of our avodas HaShem—not a failure. Of course, there is much for us Americans to learn as well from the surrounding Israeli Chareidi society, including a much-less focus on materialism.
Living here has brought our lives to a different plane of existence, which has manifested in several different aspects. One thing that really stands out is the diversity. Even though in any specific neighborhood there might be just one kind of group, it takes only a three-minute drive to reach any public area—shopping, leisure, etc.—and all the walls fall apart and all types of Jews are interacting and getting along. It's beautiful to see so many different colors and flavors of Yidden living side by side in harmony.
Our Very Own "Mountains"
Like in the U.S., we have our very own “upstate”—except that it’s Tzfas and Meron. The actual mountains seem to always be singing. Looking for Miami? No need to fly. Within a car ride of just an hour or so you can be taking in the sun-washed shores of Netanya. Of course, the greatest of them all is being able to type "The Kotel" or "Kever Rachel" into Waze and it tells me "you are forty-five minutes away."