Yosef Zev Braver, Romema, Yerushalayim
As a Jew, this is my real home. It's my own culture, my own alphabet all around me. Prophecies come alive. A large portion of our Torah is relevant only here.
It's only my first day in Eretz Yisroel and I already receive Bircas Kohanim. When I buy any produce, I have to make sure terumos and ma'aseros were separated or do it myself. This is HaShem's special Land and His Presence is manifested also by His special rules for what grows here. It makes His Presence feel even more real.
For the Chinese, it's China. That is their natural habitat and that is where they thrive. For the Japanese, it's Japan. For the Spaniards, it's Spain. For us Yidden, it's Eretz Yisroel. This Land is suited to us, and we to the Land. Any place in golus has not held us for more than a few hundred years. We cannot really thrive anywhere else, not even in Williamsburg or Lakewood. This Land has grown the largest concentration of world-recognized gedolim from across the Torah spectrum.
If you were to dig under my former house in Brooklyn, you would probably find nothing, maybe mechanical oil. Anywhere in our Land, the ground is saturated with history—our own history. There are kivrei tzaddikim all around. Even Adam HaRishon is buried here, and that’s world history.
Not so far outside of the Williamsburg bubble I lived in, kosher food is just a small percentage of what’s available. In our own country, the percentages are the other way around.
My first exposure to the beautiful fabric of this nation we are part of was in Uman on Rosh Hashana. (I always say if you would like to see how we will look like after the redemption, just come to Uman Rosh Hashana. It's a yearly rehearsal of the geula hosted by Rabbi Nachman.) I identified strongly with a scene from a story of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, where two people lost in a forest take shelter in a tree from where they hear the scary sounds of all the different kinds of wild animals. At first, they were shaken with fear and did not pay attention to the sounds, but as they paid closer attention, they heard there was a very wondrous sound of music and song which was an extremely awesome and powerful pleasure to hear. It was me who was lost in that scary forest of all different kinds of Eretz Yisroel’s people in Uman, originally as foreign and scary to me as the “wild animals” in the story, but as time went on and I became more comfortable with the “sounds,” I picked up on the beauty and wonder of the makeup of Am Yisroel.
Back in Williamsburg, I would daven at “The Shtiebel,” where there is a big map of Eretz Yisroel hanging on the wall and the mizrach was designed to resemble the Kosel. Eretz Yisroel is the primary subject over there. Also, many Israelis would pass through in another shul that I attended, some of them collecting funds for marrying off their children. I would tell them that creating such a necessity for them to fundraise abroad, is HaShem’s way of making sure to bring a lifeline—the atmosphere of Eretz Yisroel—to us Yidden in chutz la’Aretz.
After the second year I was in Uman Rosh Hashana, as a chosson already, I took the opportunity to continue for a short visit to Eretz Yisroel, primarily to get hadracha from R’ Yaakov Meir Shechter, shlit”a. I of course also went around to the mekomos hakedoshim, including Meron, Tzefas, and T’veria. A short while before that, I remember saying from R’ Nosson of Breslov’s Likuttei Tefillos, “vezakeini lavo l’Eretz Yisroel,” and not understanding why it’s such a zechus to come to Eretz Yisroel, but I figured that if he wrote it, I’m not going to skip it. It took some more time for my connection to Eretz Yisroel to develop, and for the first seven years of married life, I was still in Williamsburg.
At one point in time I decided to quit my full-time job and become self-employed as an IT guy. At that time, one of the Israelis who knew me heard that I was free from my job, so he offered me a job in Eretz Yisroel with a very generous weekly salary, but only if I would give an answer that I am ready to move there within two weeks. It was too short of a notice for me, but it did make me aware that a decent parnossa is possible in Eretz Yisroel.
I always knew that I didn’t want to invest heavily in being connected to chutz la’Aretz, so I was glad that my first car lease in NY was only for twenty-four months. I didn’t want any magnetizing ratzon keeping me from moving on.
A lot of people I know don’t think of Eretz Yisroel as a normal place to live comfortably. They are not aware that there are tens, if not hundreds and thousands, of chutznikim that are living here and enjoying it . With research, you can find people here just like you—Yeshivish, Heimish, or any type of Chareidi.
There is an important teaching of R’ Nachman to keep in mind though—the middah of arichus apayim (patience) is a prerequisite for being zoche to Eretz Yisroel, and Eretz Yisroel is a catalyst for developing arichus apayim. Be excited, but don’t jump into things; you’ve got to have bitachon, but be careful and calculated. Flexibility is also of utmost importance.
After the Holocaust, America was an amazing and beautiful stop, but why stay in golus if HaShem is “screaming” in His way that we should come home?
Vacation Is Over, but We’re Still Here
One year, while we were still living in the US and our oldest child was six years old, we made a calculation that instead of going to the mountains for the summer we could financially pull off a five-week summer vacation in Eretz Yisroel.
Once here, it ended up working out for us to stay for Elul and Tishrei as well, so we enrolled our children in the local mosdos. Once they were accepted to the mosdos, why should we go back?
As an IT freelancer, I still worked with my customers remotely. Eventually, I migrated from working remotely with clients from abroad in NY. I launched my “Computer Expert” services in the local market in the Yerushalayim area, and I now perform as a Chassidic singer with my own music band for kumzitzim and boutique events.
During the first winter, we ended up going back to the US for a month and a-half for the weddings of two siblings. My children attended their original schools, and this way we all had the chance to part from our family and friends before coming back to our new life in Eretz Yisroel, which started almost by chance—or more accurately—by the Hashgacha Pratis that surrounds us here.