Part IV: Why Rehovot: Because this!

When Keith & I returned from our pilot trip in December 2013, the obvious question was “so nu, where are you moving to?”

We were at friends’ for lunch our first Shabbat back, and we both said that we had narrowed it down to two possibilities. Those of you who know Keith & I well, are aware that we rarely agree on much if anything. So you will not be surprised when we each had a different first possibility that we had narrowed it down to. But, the second city out of our mouths was “Rehovot”. So we looked at each other, gave that one sided Israeli shrug, and said “Guess we are making aliya to Rehovot then”. And that was how we decided. From that moment on, people asked “Why Rehovot?” usually followed closely by “are there any Americans there?” – to which Keith liked to answer “None! That’s why we’re going there!” But that’s really not the case.

So, why Rehovot? There were a number of things that attracted us.

First and foremost: Schools. All the other cities we visited, when it came to talking to locals about schools, there were many opinions. We were advised against sending our kids to the public schools in some places, because they’re just not so great, or told that we could send to public schools, but then to expect to shell out a lot of money for tutors. In Rehovot, almost everyone sends their kids to the public elementary school. In fact, many of the people at our shul, are graduates of the religious elementary school in Rehovot themselves! For Middle/High School for girls there were a number of options, all of which sounded great, and we were happy for our 12 year old to have a choice of where to go. So far she is very happy with her decision.

Second: It’s an Israeli city. Meaning, when you walk around Rehovot you don’t hear English. You hear a lot of Russian, but you hear mostly Hebrew. This was extremely important to us – for us, and for our kids. We didn’t want to live in a location that had a lot of English speakers, we wanted to be somewhere that would force us to learn Hebrew, to speak Hebrew, and to integrate as much as possible, which brings me to:

Third: And this really, is parallel in importance to schools – community. A lot of Anglos who make aliya move to Anglo areas in order to have that sense of community that exists outside of Israel. Which makes sense – because complete integration into Israeli society is near impossible if you didn’t grow up here, go to the army and/or marry an Israeli. (Truthfully, the same can be said about integrating into most societies around the world – it’s difficult to do if you’re an immigrant.) In many synagogues around Israel, it is simply the place you go to pray. You show up for minyan, you daven, you leave. When we  visited Rehovot for a Shabbat, we experienced a shul that was like most synagogues outside of Israel. The Berman Shul. There is a kiddush weekly after services where people socialize and children play. Many of the members of the synagogue are English speaking. For us this was ideal. Living in a very Israeli city, but knowing that on Shabbat and holidays we have a shul to go to where we can easily communicate and socialize.

In the almost four weeks that we’ve been living here, this community aspect of the Berman Shul, has proven to be a most excellent choice. From the moment we landed we have been taken care of. Our empty apartment was filed with mattresses, sheets, towels, basic kitchen utensils and food. We’re still waiting for our lift to arrive (Please God, this week!), and in that time, we have been invited out every single Shabbat for meals. In addition, we are without a car, and I get daily calls from friends who are going grocery shopping to find out if I need to come with. We have had help in getting what we needed for the kids to start school.

All this help is coming from members of our new shul, our new community. Not a single Shabbat has passed without people coming up to us in Shul and introducing themselves. This is especially impressive, as we’re not the only newcomers to Rehovot over the summer. In fact, while many people still ask “How come Rehovot?” it turns out, it’s actually the “in place” now. In the space of just a few weeks, the shul welcomed 5 new families, and over the last few months even more families arrived.

The really beautiful thing about this community is the inter-generational connection. Something that struck us about Rehovot when we visited was the number of people our age who had grown up here, gone to the army and college, gotten married and then moved back to Rehovot. There are generations of families living here. It’s a place where you make your home. Last night, I was privileged to be invited to a friend’s house after Shabbat. There were about 40 women there, many old-timers in Rehovot, many as new as me. The age range was from 20s to 50s. For a long time, my friends have all been similar ages to me. You tend to gravitate towards people at a similar life stage. Then you can kvetch about the stuff you are going through, and try and convince each other it is normal. But having friends at different life stages is also beneficial. Like the people we ate lunch at yesterday, who made aliya nearly 20 years ago, with children the ages mine are now. Those people can look at us, hear what we say about some of the more difficult aspects of making aliya, and tell us, for real, that it will all be fine.

You should never underestimate the importance of having a community, and to have a community where everyone works together to help each other, without asking for anything in return, is what creates a warm, welcoming environment, and makes new members want to stay, to integrate, and to eventually become part of the welcoming committee themselves.

Thank you members of Berman Shul Rehovot, for making our landing soft, and for showing us that we made the right decision!



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tovarena
    Sep 07, 2014 @ 16:50:48

    Vanessa, I just got a chance to catch up on your blog (of course, while I’m sitting and waiting for the kids to finish a chug!). I’m so happy that it seems like it’s coming together for y’all relatively easily and that the kids are happy. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to catch up in person soon. 🙂


  2. Dad
    Sep 09, 2014 @ 01:27:59

    Cant wait to see you in 5 weeks time


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