Archive for the 'Avi' Category

Telfed in Ariel

Telfed

Telfed

With the growing popularity of Ariel’s Community Aliyah Program word has a way of getting around. True – North American olim and South African olim are not quite the same.  Still – they have a lot more in common than their mother tongue, and for one reason or another the South African community has begun to take an interest in Ariel.

Telfed (The South African Zionist Federation) has been pushing aliyah to the land of Israel for their constituents. Back in July Telfed brought a flight of 100 new olim to Israel. They’re taking a serious interest in stepping up their operation, and as such it was just a matter of time until they made their way to Ariel.

During their visit this past Thursday, mayor Ron nachman showed the group around the city. The guided tour included thorough visits to the up-and-coming Performing Arts Center, the brand new Sports and Recreation Center and the Ariel University Center. As with all of Ariel’s visitors, the delegates were very impressed.

A few months back, after a series of inquiries from potential South African olim about Ariel, I approached the Ministry of Absorption and suggested that they add the South African community as potential benefeciaries of our Community Aliyah Program. The response was that they’d rather leave things status quo… unless the South African community makes an organized request to come to Ariel. Well – Telfed is now in the process of issuing that request – we’ll keep you posted as things move along. 

Oh- by the way- my wife is originally South African. So – when the time comes I think we’re going to have to issue a dictiionary that translates South African terminology to American terminology. Don’t worry- it’s not too bad. Just keep in mind not to hold your breath if a South African says “just now”.

The Best Olim

I’ve finally returned from miluim and I couldn’t be happier.

When I left the office about a month ago I was concerned. Not scared, but concerned. After all, Ariel’s new olim have begun arriving and all of a sudden, at a very early stage of their aliyah, I can’t be around to give them any assistance. Sure – there are phone calls here and there – but there’s alot that can’t be done long distance.

And what about the brand-new olim that arrived? Two families arrived a matter of days before I was off to serve, and a single guy came after my departure – what would they do? How would they manage?

True- olim have always handled things on their own in the past. Yes- usually things were rather sloppy and not everything got taken care of, but olim survived before the innovation of Ariel’s Community Aliyah Program… And yet – it didn’t seem fair – leaving our olim hanging without the support net that we strive to provide them with.

So – we held a meeting with some of our volunteers. It was the “how are we going to pull this one off” meeting. It was no surprise – all of the positions were manned and every responsibilty was accounted for. Still – how would things turn out…?

While on miluim I witnessed (from afar) things coming together. From the arrival of a new oleh to the assistance necessary for the “old timer” olim (=those here for maybe a month or so), from opening bank accounts to Shabbat meal invitations, from starting new schools to getting into ulpan- our recent olim were all making it happen.

It didn’t happen by accident. Some very good, caring and capable people stepped up to the plate to get the job done. In general, when thanking our volunteers I avoid “mentioning names” so as not to seemingly overlook someone by not mentioning them. In this case, however, I will request forgiveness for mentioning only three of the outstanding volunteers. I mention them due to the significance of their assistance and the degree of their investment, without which I don’t know how things would have worked out:

Jenny – Kol HaKavod!!! Jenny put her secretarial skills and never-ending energy to work by taking the position of “central comand”. Hours on the phone, tying up loose ends, constant initiative and endless care and concern for the olim are only a small taste of what it took for her to get the job done. And indeed, the job got done – without a flaw.

Yisrael (aka Eric)- I was a bit surprised when Yisrael showed up at our volunteer meeting before my departure. After having made aliyah less than two months earlier, I certainly didn’t expect him to take an active role. By the end of the meeting he had essentially volunteered for almost all that had to be done. He was the one to greet our newest oleh when I was away, take him from place to place, show him the ropes and basically show him what it means to come Home.

Yocheved – Some people only know how to give. Yocheved wasn’t at the volunteer meeting – because she wasn’t invited (she wasn’t invited because she herself was one of the new olim that hadn’t even arrived yet!). Both when I stopped by on my leave from the army and now that I’ve returned from miluim I’ve witnessed only a few of the things that she does to help the olim: doing their wash (by hand!), running all over town to get olim things that they need and shlepping things around for a whole day to help an oleh with their move to her new place. One thing’s for sure- she’s done alot more than I have any idea about.

So – to each of the volunteers – those mentioned and those not mentioned – THANK YOU. Your true reward is an eternal one. 

I think the bottom line is that I’m both pleased and impressed. Pleased – because our olim continue to get into life in Israel – one step at a time. Impressed – because they and the volunteers who assist them are doing such an EXCELLENT job.

Thank you all for being the best.

Behind the Scenes: Letter to the Jewish Agency

Jewish Agency

As I’m sure our readers know by now, our Ariel Aliyah program has a very good relationship with all of the organizations involved in North American aliyah.  Recently the Jewish Agency shared with me an insightful letter that an olah chadashah wrote them.

Guess why I mention this – that’s right! Because I’m about to share that letter with you…

Of course, the name of the olah and the name of the “involved city” have been removed. The purpose of this post is not to single-out a person rather to highlight a phenomenon, not to disparage a city in the Land of Israel – G-d forbid – but to give people practical decision making tools.

Here we go: 

Dear —,

My name is — and my family made aliyah to — through the Communal Aliyah Program in May of 2007. We have truly appreciated all of the additional help that we received through the program, however we will be leaving — shortly, and we felt the Jewish Agency should be aware of the reason why.

When we arrived in —, we were able to find a 4 room apartment that was conveniently located for 2800 NIS per month. When the time came to renew our lease, our landlord demanded 3800 NIS per month, a 30% increase. A brief search of the real estate listings shows that the lowest rent available for even a 3 room apartment in — is 3200 NIS. If the point of the Communal Aliyah program is to build communities, instead of just giving olim an Anglo destination to crash land into for a year before benefits like sal klita and arnona reduction end, perhaps there should be a different approach to choosing the participating cities, such as someplace more affordable.

We visited Ariel and they seem to have the right idea. It’s a very Israeli city with a small Anglo population that really needs assistance, versus —‘s large Anglo population that can afford the rising prices with or without the addtional benefits.

Thanks for your time,

I can’t say that I personally agree with the terminology used in the letter. It’s not that where there are Anglos there’s less of a need and where there are Israelis there’s more of a need. HOWEVER – the bottom line is perfectly clear: Ariel continues to develop an ideal location for Anglo olim. It’s not about an attractive benefits package, leaving you high and dry when it runs out. It’s about a REAL place you can call home, afford, enjoy and be part of a community.

 Simply put, Ariel works for those who choose to live in Israel, work in Israel and love life in Israel.

Singles Choose Ariel

Nefesh B’Nefesh got wind of the fact that quite a number of singles are hopping on the Ariel Aliyah bandwagon so they asked me to write a post for their new blog (I don’t know if its public yet). So, if I wrote it anyway – why not post it for our own readers here…

Making aliyah as a single isn’t easy. On top of all of the challenges that face any oleh, singles have to start a new life for themselves in the context of an array of basic uncertainties about life and their future. Community life, interpersonal relationships, professional development and “living the dream” are terms that take on new meaning when referring to singles that make aliyah. Through and through, every step of the way, singles have to face the challenges of aliyah on their own.

Finances are often a primary issue. Particularly in cases where a single prefers to live without roommates, the issue of housing affordability becomes paramount. Of course, in order to earn an income that pays the bills, no matter how affordable the neighborhood, people need to be in close proximity to their place of employment. It isn’t easy to find a city that’s both affordable and close to an array of employment centers.

When Nefesh B’Nefesh representatives visited Ariel they were very straight-forward: “Ariel is for singles” they said. Though the city has been attracting couples and families through its Community Aliyah Program, it turns out that many singles share the Nefesh B’Nefesh assessment of the situation. Whether through word of mouth, pilot trips or the internet, singles have begun to pursue Ariel as their aliyah destination. For some it’s the quiet atmosphere, for others it’s the beautiful views of the Shomron. Whatever the initial pull may be, it seems that the open and supportive community along with the presence of the city’s university campus with 10,000 students, provide the necessary human element so significant to the lifestyle of these singles.

In Ariel singles can be anonymous or gregarious, low-key or involved. If they want their space – they have it. If they want a community – it’s there. If they feel like hopping on a bus to meet people in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem – they can. The affordable housing, the proximity to major employment centers, the in-city services and the comfortable lifestyle make Ariel a convenient and comfortable option for singles who are ready to think a bit out of the box.

For more info on Ariel you can visit:
Ariel Aliyah Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5994778609
Ariel Aliyah Yahoo Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/arielaliyah/
Ariel Aliyah Blog: www.arielaliyah.wordpress.com
The City of Ariel’s English Site: www.ariel.muni.il/en

Or contact Avi Zimmerman, Ariel’s Community Aliyah Program coordinator:
arielaliyah@gmail.com

The System Works!!!

Contract  ArielAs many of our readers know, we recently opened a new “yahoogroup” discussion board (conveniently titled Ariel Aliyah http://groups.yahoo.com/group/arielaliyah/). The discussion group is just another way of helping our olim and Anglo “veteran” families receive up-to-date relevant information.

Mostly, I post things on the group and I have no idea what happens afterward. People aren’t so into follow-up. Sure – sometines people will respond to a post. Other times people will send a “thank you” or “I appreciate the posting”, but more often than not it’s hard to know how things work out. Yesterday, only a couple of weeks after we  started the group, I had the opportunity to get a real feel for how the system actually works.

A couple, who had seen one of the posts about an apartment for rent, followed up. We made an apointment for them to see the apartment in the evening. The couple asked me to come along to check out the place and make sure the deal went through smoothly. I showed up a few minutes before the tenant arrived to open the place, so the couple asked if I wouldn’t mind checking out another rental sign that they saw down the road in the meantime. I obliged.   

While I was walking  a few feet down the street 2 women started calling my name. This, you might imagine, is an unusual occurance – at least for me. To be quite honest, I was totally and completely confused, assuming that there was another Avi walking right next to me. When I didn’t notice any such person I reasoned that perhaps they were calling me.

I then recognized the women – one from my shul and the other whom I had met only a few weeks ago. They immediately explained: “we were just talking about you” (not that this was much of an explanation – I barely knew these people, had no idea that they even knew my name, and wasn’t quite sure how they recognized me fom down the street). “How did you know that I was looking for tutoring lessons?”

Okay – all I wanted to do was to check out another rental sign. I’m still trying to figure out if these people have me confused with someone else, but  the probablity that I myself am losing it became increaingly more likely.

After another  2 minutes of “explanations” I finally figured it out. I posted that a woman was looking for an english tutor on the yahoogroup (based on a post that I found on Ariel’s Hebrew site) earlier yesterday morning. As I was walking down the street these two women were emerging from an initial meeting where they agreed on a tutoring schedule between the the two of them – tutor and tutoree.

It was great – one family signing a contract, another woman getting a tutoring job and another keeping her job with the assistance of her new tutor. I actually felt the Divine hand motioning to me – “keep the posts coming. I’ll take it from there”.  

Different Worlds: One Community

Ariel posterWe’ve been talking alot about the diverse and well-integrated communities in Ariel. All of that talk might seem like some superficial sort of motto, or a lack of appreciation of the challenge involved in creating such a community. All the same, time and time again I’m amazed to see just how true it is.

This past Shabbat we had four Anglo families visiting Ariel. Each came from different backgrounds, and each for different reasons.  The families hailed from New York, Montreal, Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. From Teimanim to Ahskenazim, couples without children to families with kids in a variety of age-groups, from different religious orientations and very different professions. These “externals” don’t really begin to describe how different these families were from each other. The best way of putting things is that a “community referral organization” (wouldn’t it be great if something like that existed!) would send each of the families to different – perhaps even very different – places. That is- if the organization wouldn’t know about Ariel.

My wife and I only noticed this once everyone went home. We were mulling over our Shabbat experiences, and it seemed like everyone had a great time. That’s not new to us (obviously). But, I think that it hit us that the families were easily distinguished from one another- yet each of them really felt comfortable amongst the various members of the community. Almost like Ariel is “one-size-fits-all”.

I actually don’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all” community or society. Differentiation is important – everyone has something to add to life in this country- and there are many ways of going about that. On the other hand, sometimes people want to add in a unique way – in a place where they can feel comfortable to be both an integral part of the community and an individual at the same time.  They want to know that their paricipation is meaningful and that the world is a better place because they’re around. Maybe that’s why Ariel helps people tap in to their positive energy and personal motivation so naturally.

As Jews we know that each and every person is a world in and of himself. And yet, if every person is a complete world then how can we expect everyone to inhabit the same planet?!?! IMHO – Ariel is the answer. I know it sounds like an avertisement, but I’ll say it anyway – the community here is where so many different worlds enjoy living together.

Yom Hazikaron – Most Original Sight

Russian World War Two MedalI saw quite a bit today, on my Yom Hazikaron travels. Today, Israel’s Memorial Day for it’s fallen soldiers and terror vicitms, has been very meaningful for me.

After Shacharit (my morning prayers) at the Netzarim Yeshiva here in Ariel they recited a special “E-l Maleh Rachamim” (prayer in memory of people who passed away) for the martyrs of the Netzarim community, when it was in Gush Katif – including both Netzarim residents and fallen soldiers. My day opened with a genuine sense that every person who fell defending the State of Israel had not only a name and a family but also a purpose.

Later this morning i was in Petach Tikva for some time. On my way back home to Ariel I passed several Yom Hazikaron ceremonies being organized. The siren wailed while I was on the road – each of the cars pulled aside and each of the drivers stood aside in silent memory and honor. It was a powerful and meaningful moment, though not a suprising one. Only upon my return to Ariel did I see something that made me do a double-take.

After I dropped off the soldier that hitched a ride with me (whom I was pretty sure shed a tear while we were listening to the Har Herzl memorial ceremony over the radio) something rather unique caught my eye. On the opposite side of the road was an elderly man, wearing a sport jacket with civilian clothing – decorated with more medals and badges than I’d ever seen at one time before. Had I not been familiar with Ariel’s Russian war veteran’s museum I would have had no clue as to what was going on. It was, however, clear to me that this man was donning the medals that he recieved over many years of service in The Red Army. But in Israel?, on Yom Hazikaron?

It turns out that I missed the main event. There were many Yom Hazikaron ceremonies throughout Ariel, but one of the more original and interesting ones was in Ariel’s primary commercial center. There, the deputy mayor, along with city residents, paid tribute to Israel’s fallen soldiers. Some of the decorated war veterans from World War II were present. They were, and are Jews, who served in the Red Army in the fight against Hitler and the Germans.

It’s still somewhat surprising to me – the Red Army and Israel’s Memorial Day. Intellectually the correlation between the two seems to be a stretch, at best. And yet, for the war veteran’s there was a natural and necessary connection between the two. As though they were basically stating “we fought as Jews the best way a Jew could fight”. Their affinity to the Israeli Defense Forces is something they carry with them with every one of their medals.

I guess what struck me most about the whole thing was the seam between different stages of Jewish history. These men and their families lived and fought through one of the most profound shifts in the history of our People  – from the depths of the exile to the beginning of the Redemption. 

It’s absolutely amazing to me. As Jews, something deep down inside tells us that everything we are-  our personal experiences, our collective history – it all becomes meaningful when we build our lives in Israel. Sometime along the process of experiencing our Aliyah it finally becomes clear: everything we’ve been through is the basis of everything that we will be.