Archive for the 'Discussion Posts' Category

Concerns about investing

The following is a response that I wrote to a family of olim that is considering moving to Ariel. They, as others before them, expressed their concerns about moving beyond “the green line”. So, how DOES one approach the question of how to approach the geo-political issues related to investing in a home in Ariel?
I would suggest approaching the issue at hand in one of two ways: “practically” or “faithfully”.
 
1. Practically – certainly an intelligent approach. The reality of the situation – at least as I see it – is that everywhere in the world there is a degree of uncertainty about what the future may hold. There is a sense (not a statistical fact but a “sense”) that the degree of uncertainty is greater in Israel than in America. Indeed there is a “sense”, influenced and fed primarily by media coverage and framing and somewhat by governmental policy (or lack thereof), that the degree of uncertainty is even greater within certain regions of Israel. One such “region” is none other than the nation’s capital – Jerusalem. Another such region is that of Judea and Samaria.
 
The informed analyst will take things even further, and examine the subdivisions of “degree of uncertainty” within the aforementioned regions. As such, there are what I would consider “indicators” – no guarantees, but indicators as to what may be in the future. The foremost indicator is what’s termed “the security fence”. The fence is seen by most as an initial form of a border between the State of Israel and what may some day become a Palestinian entity – if such an agreement is ever reached. Accordingly, those areas that are on the Israeli side of the fence, also referred to as “on the inside”, are considered safe from the threats of land concessions in any final agreement. There are 3 regions which are beyond the “green line” (as the 1967 borders are often referred to) and yet within the fence: Ma’aleh Adumim, The Etzion Bloc and The Ariel Bloc. Though the fence hasn’t yet been completed, with a question mark remaining regarding certain communities, the fence around Ariel has already been built and the city is “within the fence”. 
 
There are other indicators, one of which is building permits. Building beyond the “green line” currently requires central government permission. Those communities granted permission to expand are considered to have a lesser “degree of uncertainty” concerning their future. Due to the complexity of Israeli politics building permits require a lot of effort, however the City of Ariel continues to build with permits (currently there are several projects throughout the city, 4 of which are new residential developments).
 
Yet another indicator is the infrastructure in the region. Perhaps Israel’s best highway, highway 5 which goes from Tel Aviv to Ariel, has just been completed. Most of the highway has been in use for several years, but the work on the final 3 kilometer stretch was opened on November 10th. Many consider this significant investment to be a strong indicator of Ariel’s promising future.
 
2. Faithfully – personal beliefs are no less a part of a decision making process than rational thought. For example, no logical assessment of the situation will convince those who are diametrically opposed to living beyond the “green line” due to their political views to consider Ariel as their home. If their belief system is antagonistic to the city and everything that it represents then they will most likely feel uncomfortable here. However, those who are committed to the Jewish Homeland, the security of Israel and the right for a Jew to dwell in areas of Israeli sovereignty will naturally lean towards building a home in Ariel.
 
Beyond the natural magnetic pull of Ariel for Jews from around the world, there are those who are drawn for idealistic reasons. More than any other place, the City of Ariel embodies each of the primary objectives of the modern Jewish movements that see the State of Israel as a meaningful aspect of Jewish history:
a. dwelling in the Land
b. advancing a healthy orientation towards Jewish practice and belief amongst the residents of Ariel
c. creating a healthy interpersonal and inter community dynamic amongst Israelis, notwithstanding their different views and lifestyles.  
 
For some, the city’s idealistic pull may overshadow other considerations, because their decision making process is primarily driven by their inner commitment which may either supersede or perhaps even tint their theoretical analysis of the geo-political situation.
 
 
As mentioned, it really depends on how you approach the subject. If you’re looking at the dry facts on the ground it certainly looks like Ariel is here to stay. The “degree of uncertainty” is very low, though it does exist.
 
It is my opinion that olim need to keep both the practical and the faith-oriented considerations in mind. First I suggest asking yourself if you’re comfortable or perhaps interested in moving beyond the “green line”. In the event that you are you’ll then want to consider what “degree of uncertainty” you’re comfortable with. It is my belief and understanding that Ariel really is safe from the concerns that you mentioned,  due to the points mentioned above as well as others. My wife and I purchased our home here as many others continue to do on a daily basis. Indeed, Ariel has even become a hot spot for real-estate investors and the demand continues to grow.
 
So, to sum up – I suggest coming here and seeing for yourself. It’s by far the best way to get a real feel for what life is really like here.
 
Awaiting your visit,
Avi

Cry for Help

Fear of AliyahOur Ariel Aliyah members and fans really pitched in for this one. Last week I recieved the following letter from a family that’s considering aliyah:

no word… I am on the verge of a crash too much… going on… my wife made a list yesterday.. basically minimal living in this country is 14,500 shekels per month schools… the killer is the car… what insurance and reg. are sick… she is freaking out big time……mix the cost with ulpan … sure disaster… G-d help us…. i will keep you posted……. she is really worried

I asked the family for permission to post their letter on our facebook group , and they gave me the go ahead.

Some people responded with words of encouragement, others with practical advice. Some spoke of teamwork and communication between spouses and others of faith in G-d. [To see the discussion group and the responses click here].

Several things seemed to stand out:

1. People really wanted to help this family in whatever way they could.

2. The letter seemed to hit a vaguely cord in the hearts of olim, drawing on their personal experiences and evoking genuine responses.  

3. The resounding chorus seemed to be that as long as both parents are committed to aliyah they will manage to make it into a reality.

In my mind the letter written was a microcosmic representation of the “pro-aliyah but not quite there yet” aspect of Diaspora Judaism. The responses were, on the other hand, a microcosmic representation of the spirit and dedication of successful Aliyah-Judaism.

“Pro-aliyah-but-not-quite-there-yet Diaspora Judaism” is in a tight spot. It wants to see Israel as a place to live, but finds the practical side of things either daunting or difficult to fathom.

“Successful Aliyah-Judaism” has been there, seen it, done it, lived through it and is ready to tell its story. Noone said it was easy, and yet noone said that it couldn’t be done. Each person, with his own tools, his personal commitments and his belief system managed to make it – and continues to do so.

The pre-aliyah narrative is, at least in some way, about concerns, fears and stress. The post-aliyah narrative is about commitment. Decide to make it happen, and it will.

 
 

I Wonder…

Engathering of exilesWe often wonder what the world would be like “if”…

We wonder about things because we think big.
We wonder about the world because we know that it can be a better place.
We wonder about life because we strive to realize the potential that’s inherent to who we are.

During my travels through the United States of America I spoke with a number of people regarding a number of issues. Of course, all topics and all conversations tended to focus on Israel and on aliyah. Over the course of a conversation with a long-standing Rabbi of a significant conversation I made mention the importance of North American aliyah to Israel, to the Jewish people as a whole and to the entire world. It is my impression that the Rabbi felt somewhat uncomfortable about what I was saying, as do many Jews that reside in America – particularly those who are committed to Judaism.

The Rabbi’s response to my comments was very interesting. He said “Sometimes I wonder what would happen if all the Jews were to move to Israel.” Out of respect for the Rabbi I did not respond, but I did think to myself: “Sometimes I wonder what would happen if they don’t”.

 

Facebook Challenges Israel

facebookI’m very hesitant to post this issue on our blog. We have a great thing going with the blog – we’re talking about Ariel and about Aliyah. That’s the way it should stay. I don’t want to go down the path of political debate.

Still, a number of people sent me links to an article in which I was quoted based on my Facebook activity. (Links:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080317/wr_nm/settlers_palestinians_facebook_dc
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,338578,00.html
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/965296.html )
So, I felt the need to respond in some way.

THE TRUTH:
1. My name is Avi, not Ari.
2. By quoting only a small part of my letter I was made to sound a bit “unreasonable”. Here’s the original letter:

“Hello,

I was surprised and disappointed to find that my home town of Ariel is listed in Facebook as being part of a country called “Palestine”. I am a citizen of Israel, as are all of the other residents of Ariel. We do not live in “Palestine”, nor does anyone else. Whilst there does exist an entity termed “The Palestinian Authority” they are not recognized by the international community as having sovereignty over a country.

I am willing to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt that they are not trying to forward any particular political agenda, and that they are merely acting on the basis of misinformation. True – I don’t believe that it behooves Facebook to act in such an irresponsible manner, but I understand that you’re willing to take that risk.

Regardless, I both request and recommend that you list Ariel as “Ariel, Israel”, and that you expediate that process. If for some reason that process takes more than a few moments’ time I would greatly appreciate it if at a bear minimum you would list “Ariel” alone, with no reference to a particular country (such a policy might make your apoltical agenda that much clearer in many regions of the world).

Looking forward to using your “social network”,
Avi Zimmerman
Ariel”

3. Antisemitism and anti-Israelism are the same, and they’re not new. It’s sad that we care what Facebook thinks about us. It shouldn’t really matter at all. All that matters is what we, The Jewish People, think and how we conduct ourselves. The more we act ourselves the more we will be respected.

Wishing all a Purim Sameach,
Avi Zimmerman
Ariel, ISRAEL

Response to Mom

Recently one of our potential aliyah families recieved a “letter from Mom”. “Mom” was trying to convince her children not to take her granchildren to “the war torn” Land of Israel.

The members of our Facebook discussion group responded to the letter. Here’s one of the responses, written by Jerry and Sylvia (New York-Ariel, 1996):

Dear Mom and Dad,

I understand your love and concern for our welfare living here in Israel. I know that the reports you get in the States make Israel seem like a dangerous place to live but that is not the reality of life here. There are so many families our age with young children who have made Israel their home. Living in Israel is a vigorous and challenging experience which offers the opportunity to give meaning to your life that outweighs the negatives that confront us here.

Some times one has to make decisions that are not easy but are the right ones. I feel that a lot depends on what one’s values in life are. Our values are not based only on material success that leads to a life of comfort and ease. Therefore, we feel that our decision to live here is the right one for us.

Contrary to the reports in the media, Israel is a safe place to live and to bring up your children with Jewish values. In Israel, children are extremely important, not only to their parents, but to the people of Israel in general. They are a cherished possession. Schools are very good, education is high, and it is combined with religious education as well that enables them to understand the meaning of their Jewishness.

As to your concern for employment, there are many opportunities here that one can take advantage of. Eventually, one finds their place in the workforce just like in any other location one finds themselves in. Mom, as far as health care in Israel is concerned, here it is socialized medicine and for not a lot of money, one receives excellent care. By the way Mom, Israel is in the forefront of modern medical advances and achievements that are acknowledged worldwide. Health care in Israel is so much more affordable than it is in the States that one cannot begin to compare to the exorbitant cost of health care in the States.

We feel we have made the right decision – it really feels good to live here in a Jewish country — and know that we are contributing to the growth and wellbeing of Israel by living here. Of course, we will miss you and the whole family and we understand your fear of coming here to spend time with us but hope and pray that over time you will see that this is a safe place to visit. By the way, Mom, tourism in general is flourishing. And don’t forget that we can also spend vacation time with you in the States.

Mom, I really hope you will come to understand that Israel is not the dangerous country you think it is. Daily life here is safer than in the States and is far more rewarding. I understand your fear for us but it is based on reports that only give one side of the picture. We do not live in fear, we live with the knowledge that this is where we belong and that our children will grow up in a Jewish country with a full Jewish life and values. This is our land; we are not just here to live the “comfortable life” but to have our lives have meaning and to have our children value their heritage and to know what it means to live a complete Jewish life in your own country.

Mom and Dad, I love you and hope that in time you will come to understand the decision we have made.