Yoel Berman, Yerushalayim
I came from Los Angeles as a bochur to the Mir Yeshiva, and then got married here in Eretz Yisroel.
I continued learning in the Mir, while my wife worked for Otzar HaChochma, the world's largest digital seforim library, in its beginning stages of amassing and scanning thousands of seforim.
We then moved to Modi'in Illit, where, with the help of our parents for the down payment, we purchased our first apartment. As is common in this country, we bought “on paper,” paying the contractor in installments as the apartment was built. Meanwhile, we rented down the block. It was an interesting experience watching the progress of the construction of our apartment.
My wife then worked at ImageStore doing document digitizing and electronic archiving. It was one of a few companies which started the trend of creating workspaces tailored for large numbers of Chareidi women interested in working together, close to home in a sheltered environment. Next door to ImageStore was another such company, Citybook, which provided jobs to many native English speakers living in Modi'in Illit by outsourcing for American companies.
While my wife worked, I continued as an avreich in a small kollel in Kiryat Sefer where we would hear shiurim from HaRav Moshe Mordechai Karp shlit"a (author of the popular Hilchos Chag BeChag series). The group comprised a real mix of Litvish, Chasidish and Sephardi avreichim both from Eretz Yisroel and abroad.
When one of my neighbors started teaching safrus, I jumped at the opportunity. I always had creative and artistic leanings, as well as an attachment to the written words of the Torah. The idea that I can actually create a physical object which would be imbued with kedusha also appealed to me. As I had dreamt about having my own real kosher Megillas Shir Hashirim for reading at the time of Kabbolas Shabbos, I figured that instead of spending the money (which I didn't really have) to buy one, I might as well invest in learning the trade.
That decision served me well, as I have been able to turn this occupation into a livelihood as our family has grown.
My father bought the first Megillas Esther I wrote. He reads from it every year for many family members, including his mother—my grandmother. I remember hearing how excited she was to see the megillah, proud that her grandson was a real sofer. It was even more interesting to hear it from her, as a member of the generation that wanted to see their children as doctors and lawyers.
After some years in Modi'in Illit, a married cousin with several children followed suit and came to join us from Los Angeles. There weren't enough Americans in the neighborhood to make it comfortable enough for her, so they ended up moving to a more Anglo neighborhood in Yerushalayim, where her husband also learnt safrus. Even though they ended up moving back to the U.S. after a number of years here, her husband still makes an income from the trade he learnt here—writing Sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos.
I ended up moving up north with my family to a new Chareidi kehillah in the neighborhood of Giv'at Hamoreh in Afula. What allowed for our move is the fact that safrus is an occupation that is not dependent on location. It was an amazing experience to take part in the growth of a new community in Eretz Yisroel, contributing our talents and efforts to make it happen. After several years there, we moved to Yerushalayim to be closer to my aging grandfather who had meanwhile immigrated here, where, utilizing the connections I have made up north and elsewhere, I am involved in promoting the more-affordable communities of Eretz Yisroel for the Anglo-Chareidi community, mostly in the north and south of the country.
Being the oldest in my family, I was the first one to establish myself here in Eretz Yisroel. Several siblings thereafter followed me, with three sisters currently living here with their families and other siblings coming to visit occasionally including when they are here on their post-high school or seminary stint. My parents also come to visit and to share in simchas.
I think my parents see Eretz Yisroel as the future not just of the Jewish people in general, but of our family specifically. Having grandchildren that are playing in the streets of Yerushalayim and elsewhere in Eretz Yisroel makes them feel strongly connected to this amazing part of our nation's history that is playing out now. When, at the end of the Pesach Seder, they say “l'shana haba'ah b'Yerushalayim,” it is a Yerushalayim that is much more tangible to them, not just some esoteric concept. They've been here, they are represented here, and they have a future here.
I am proud to be part of that future.
The Security Situation
When, as a bochur, I decided—with my parents' approval—that I was to go to learn in Eretz Yisroel, there were several relatives who expressed concern about the security situation in Eretz Yisroel.
It was just a few days before I was scheduled to leave home that my father and a few of my siblings went to do some shopping. While at the store, a gun-wielding teenager forced everyone into the freezer while he cleaned out the cash registers. (The cashier led them instead into the refrigerator.) Although, Boruch HaShem, the traumatic ordeal lasted just a short while, without any injuries, I was thereafter not subject to any dissuasion due to security concerns…