Bashi Rosen, Har Nof, Yerushalayim
If you had told me fifteen years ago that in 2019 I’d be living with my husband and six children, bli ayin hara, in an old three-bedroom Yerushalami apartment with no car, I would have laughed in your face. Coming from suburban America with two to three-story houses, one car per driver in the family, and a normal American lifestyle, I could never have pictured spending the rest of my life living on a kollel budget in Yerushalayim. I lived a whole ten days as a married adult in America, so I really can’t compare based on my own personal experiences. What I can share with you is how I fell in love with Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim in particular, and why after almost eleven years I can’t imagine moving back to the US.
My mother-in-law constantly reminds us of the original plan to go to Eretz Yisroel, learn for a few years, come back, receive smicha and a psychology degree, and maybe go into kiruv or something to that effect. Neither my husband nor I am sure exactly how it happened. We came for ten months, were zoche to have our first child, moved out of a shoebox and into a larger apartment, and the “it’s time to go home” conversation never came up. After our third or fourth child was born, we realized that the conversation never came up because we were already home.
Until you’ve experienced it yourself, it’s impossible to fully describe the way Yiddishkeit is an active part of daily life in Eretz Yisroel, and especially in Yerushalayim. The country, even summer activities, revolve around the Jewish calendar. One hears the music playing throughout the city on Erev Shabbos, listens as the siren announces that Shabbos is starting, watches as the streets empty as it gets closer to Shabbos, and then enjoys the noisy laughter as the kids play in the street all Shabbos long. Also, one knows that the big theme parks and water parks will have separate days for men and women during Bein Hazmanim. When one sees the city covered in Succahs, and with the arba minim and succah decorations sold on every corner, it brings such a sense of warmth and joy. In December, the lampposts are decked out in lights and Menorahs as opposed to trees and Xmas decorations. Two weeks before Pesach, why is that ten-year-old dragging a huge log down the street? Oh right, it’s getting close to Lag Ba’omer. What’s that music I hear? The kids all run outside to join yet another Hachnasas Sefer Torah, a common, joyful occurrence on the Har Nof streets.
I feel so blessed to be raising my kids in Eretz Yisroel, where they are growing up in a Jewish country, surrounded by a frum environment and minimal physical needs. Tuition prices are great here. Schooling for the girls is basically free and the boys’ tuition is only about $80 a month. My children’s mother tongue is Hebrew, which means that they are learning HaShem’s Torah in their native language. Torah is taught to them with such a geshmak—it’s beautiful! The girls get a double curriculum, though the boys basically just get limudei kodesh. We’ve supplemented to fill in the gaps that are important to us. I love the fact that the younger kids are off in the afternoons. I’m blessed to be working from home on a flexible schedule, so I get to spend quality time with the kids on a daily basis.
The neighborhoods are havens for kids. Schools and communities offer a variety of enjoyable after-school programming and activities for the kids. These could include programs such as sports teams, arts, music, and others. Concerts and puppet shows are arranged for all the big vacations and even during the school year. When the boys come home after a long day of learning, the lobbies turn into soccer fields and the sidewalks are their bike paths. Within a five-minute walk from my apartment there are four large parks and so much space to play jump rope, hopscotch, and any other game the kids can dream up.
Israeli kids are super independent. By the age of eight, my kids run over to the supermarket to get ice cream and can go to the candy store all by themselves (all of which happen to be across the street). Being that the schools here are all within walking distance, it’s quite common for the older children to pick-up/drop-off the younger children, which is helpful if you don’t have a car.
Coming from an out-of-town community, it took me a while to adjust to having sixteen families living in my building, thousands of frum people living on my block, and tens of thousands in my community. After a bit of time though, I developed my own community. On a daily basis, my neighbors and I borrow and return items, whether it be food, last minute baking supplies, clothes, baby Tylenol for the grandchildren who came to visit, or even the last-minute bathing cap for a school swim trip.
Aside from the fact that you can now get most American products in Eretz Yisroel, I’ve also found that like any diet, after time on that diet you lose your craving for the forbidden foods. I’m no longer craving or even needing extra padded Q-Tips or three-ply toilet paper. Through living a less gashmiyusdik life in Eretz Yisroel, you’re really zoche to see the shining light of HaShem and the ruchniyus involved in your daily life.
About five years ago in Yerushalayim, there was a huge snowstorm on a Thursday. The entire city shut down. Right across the street from our building is a large supermarket. The workers could not get home, so they slept in the store that night, which was amazing for us, as they were one of the few stores in the whole city that was open on Erev Shabbos. No cars could get out because, unlike America, Eretz Yisroel gets so few large snowstorms that it’s not worth the money to invest in snowplows. Eventually, they used some tanks to clear the main roads. So, on that Friday, many of my neighbors were totally homebound. Being elderly, they could not brave the walk across the street in over a foot of snow. My sweet neighbor made Challah for every family in the whole building so that they would all have Challah for Shabbos! Another neighbor had a Sefer Torah, so all the residents in the building davened together for all of the Shabbos tefillos without needing to venture outdoors. It was a very special, only-in-Eretz Yisroel type of weekend!