Eli B., Ma'aleh Amos
When I first came as a young bochur to Eretz Yisroel, I thought, no chance I would stay to live here. I was in a typical state of denial, convincing myself that back in “my” home country everything is better; there's nothing like America. I had two married brothers learning in Eretz Yisroel at the time, and I just came here to grow in learning in a different setting.
From mid-high school in my hometown of Baltimore, I skipped to a post-high school Israeli yeshivah gedolah – Yeshivas Kol Torah in the Yerushalayim neighborhood of Bayit Vegan. It took a little bit of time to acclimate to the people, language, and culture, and to being away from home. There were a lot of ups and downs, but B”H I was able to push past the hard parts and make it through yeshivah.
During this time, as I got a bit out of being defensive for my “home country,” I advanced to “I'm too young now; I'm not going to think about living here now.” It was only later, a year and a half before I got married, that I thought about it again and realized that I didn't have much more anywhere else. My friends were here, I had some family here as well, and my rebbeim were here. I sort of just realized that I'm here, too – it's Eretz Yisroel that is my real home country. Of course, I had some family back in the U.S., but I was sure they would also love to come to Eretz Yisroel, so why shouldn't I stay?
It wasn't that I was only here out of default; there were positive things I appreciated about living here. There is a high level of Torah and yiras Shomayim, and of course the ma'alah and kedushah of Eretz Yisroel that I wouldn't have back in America.
I started shidduchim here in Eretz Yisroel, and got married to someone from an American-Israeli family that we knew from Beitar. Her two brothers learned with me in Kol Torah, and my parents were acquainted with her parents. This made things a lot easier.
After getting married in Eretz Yisroel, we moved into a really small apartment (called here yechidat diur, lit. housing unit) in the Geulah neighborhood of Yerushalayim. It is very common here for young couples to start out for a short time in a yechidat diur – they are often too small for even just the first baby! I then started learning in Yeshivas Brisk of R' Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik shlita, and my wife worked in the neighborhood of Har Nof. The bus ride to Har Nof every morning, going through all of Geulah traffic, could take a full hour.
We moved several months ago to the Chareidi yishuv of Ma'aleh Amos. Although some might have a feeling that it's a bit “out-of-the center,” it actually takes my wife less time to get to work in Har Nof than when she had to go through all of Geulah traffic! Some friends were wary of moving to Ma'aleh Amos, as it is supposedly in an Arab area. We do drive through some Arab areas a bit, but I don't find it to be a real issue; in some ways it is actually better than in Yerushalayim.
As for me, since moving I switched to a kollel in Yerushalayim, joining another three avreichim from the yishuv attending the same kollel. Traveling by car, it is a short commute – I get a ride every day with someone from the yishuv who works in Yerushalayim.
When we had started our search for more affordable housing, we were concerned we would have to leave our family and friends behind and venture into unfamiliar territory. Most of the financially realistic options for us were a long commute away to the north or south, where Yerushalayim could no longer realistically remain the center of life. We were relieved to find that Ma'aleh Amos would allow us to enjoy affordable housing while maintaining our connection with Yerushalayim. In a sense, I feel as if we never really left Yerushalayim.
The atmosphere here in Ma'aleh Amos is relaxing, and there is beautiful achdus among the residents. It's a small place where people are helpful and friendly while not being intruding and judging. People are accepted for who they are, avreichim and working people alike. People mostly know each other. Everyone helps in their own way, such as arranging meals for families after birth, etc. Local drivers stop by the yishuv gate to offer people rides. All in all, we've been very happy here.
In general, people here are from yeshivah backgrounds, though a Chassidish community is starting, as the Biala Rebbe is sending his Chassidim to live here. They opened a shul here in addition to the central Litvish shul. In this small place, it's nice to have another minyan with additional times for Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv.
Aside from myself and my wife, there are several Americans and children of American immigrants who are English speakers from home living here. For anyone who would want to live here but is not yet integrated into the Israeli community, I'm sure we'd all be happy to help.
On HaShem's Schedule
There were recently several new developments here in Ma'aleh Amos which make it even easier to live here.
A new shuttle service between Ma'aleh Amos and Beitar means more commuting options; to Yerushalayim, there are a few buses a day. A popular countrywide once-a-week "neighborhood goods sale" opened a local branch, where we order supplies and groceries to be delivered to the yishuv. A major supermarket from a nearby city started offering home delivery for our yishuv, albeit for a small fee. We are no longer dependent on the small local makolet (grocery), which isn’t open all day.
All of these developments happened about the time we moved to the yishuv, half a year after we were originally scheduled to move. While waiting, we were a bit frustrated about the delay, but afterwards realized how HaShem cared for us – making sure we'd come only when it would be even easier for us here.