I’ve been so busy since moving to RBS – much more than I expected – and it’s really making it difficult to find time to write!
I love living here. It’s like I was living in the shadows for three and a half years when I was in Karmiel, and now I can step into the light. I can be myself without concern that some aspect of my beliefs or behaviors doesn’t conform enough to the Israeli charedi community expectation and having it affect the abilities of those around me to see the person I am. Karmiel is a great place to live for young families who want to raise their children with Israeli charedi norms, and I really appreciate having families around with older children who have similar values as us.
When we talked about moving, I asked the older kids their opinions and they all basically said it doesn’t matter to them where we are because they’re not living at home. But actually it’s affected them all positively.
Ds21 comes home much more frequently now that we’re so much closer. He came home about every three months. Now he comes for Shabbos about every three weeks! Dd20 moved home a few weeks ago and no longer has to rent a room in the home of a stranger, and dd18 is home for Shabbos more often. She can come home when she has a day off from her studies whereas before it wouldn’t have been worth it since she would have spent most of her free time traveling. Now it’s very easy for them to invite friends so we’ve already had a number of their friends for Shabbos. Dd18 is in a dorm now but when seminary finishes in another month, she won’t have to worry about finding a living situation, which caused a lot of pressure for her last year when she was in an Israeli seminary with no dorm.
Ds16 has a much shorter commute to high school (he used to spend five hours in each direction when he came home for the weekend) and he told me that school is easier for him now that he’s not so tired from traveling and having to miss classes. Within a week of being here he already socially felt much more comfortable here than in Karmiel (and this is a son who is fluent in Hebrew, has gone to school with Israelis since we moved here and knew a lot of people in Karmiel).
Since the younger kids left behind very good friends, I was concerned about how the transition would be. But they’re doing great. We have one bedroom less but more outdoor space than in our Karmiel home, and having the space for them to run around without having to go to a local park is really nice. We’re all much more relaxed without the pressure of keeping our neighbors from getting upset about noise.
It will take time to make good friends but the boys (12, 9, 7, 6 and 34 months) are getting to know people. For ds12 it was really hard socially where we lived since he didn’t go to the cheder and the boys there stuck together in and out of school, so there was no way for him to be involved with them. There were no extracurricular activities for religious kids and there was no one his age in our neighborhood, which was limiting in terms of being able to meet people and make friends, . Here he’s part of a boys’ youth group and even before joining that met several nice boys. On his own initiative he began going to shul (synagogue) three times a day (usually by himself) once we moved here whereas in Karmiel he didn’t feel comfortable and would only go on Shabbos. It really, really makes a difference to be in a place where you don’t feel you’re being judged all the time.
Dd14 is meeting a number of girls her age. I don’t think it makes up yet for leaving her best friend, but they speak on the phone and the girls she’s met are all very nice. And that there are girls to meet outside of the school framework is amazing, because this didn’t exist before. She knew girls and had friends, but again, all of the social stuff for kids in Karmiel was through school and we no longer have that limitation. We hosted a teen girls shalosh seudos last week that went really well and are considering doing this on a regular basis, maybe every three weeks (depends on our girls since I don’t actively run it).
There are so many lectures and activities that you could be busy all the time! I’ve gone to several lectures since being here on a variety of topics, in English and Hebrew. Last night I attended a shiur and was afterwards asked to volunteer at a womens’ event tomorrow night which I hope to do. I was asked to give a shiur for Shavuos and initially agreed but now have some hesitation about that. If I end up speaking, I’ll let you know.
Something I didn’t think about at all was how being closer to the center of the country would reconnect me to old friends. I’m now able to share in celebrations that before I would have just sent my good wishes and apologies that I couldn’t make it. Since being here six weeks ago, I’ve been invited to three bar mitzvas and one wedding, all of which I can attend now that I’m not so far away.
I’ve bumped into women who recognized me – twice they were girls who were two grades below me in high school! I met a seminary friend I last saw twenty years ago and then a classmate from sixth grade. Someone told my husband that when you move to RBS, you reconnect to your past and it’s true!
Last night at a lecture a blog reader approached me and asked me if people are recognizing me all the time now that I’m here. Not all the time but it happens, but what was a first for my husband was when someone recognized him from my blog!
My husband is also enjoying having so many like-minded people here. He’s getting to know local rabbis and making time to connect with them. We are hopeful of finding a rav for our family here; it will take time but it’s important to us and with so many wonderful community rabbis, we’re optimistic that we’ll find someone we respect who will also be able to understand and respect us.
Ramat Beit Shemesh is a different world than Karmiel and as nice as Karmiel was – and it really was nice – I love it here.
But I don’t regret for a second moving to Karmiel. We had challenges that olim here would think are grossly exaggerated because it’s so different making aliyah to a place with very few supports for new immigrants. RBS isn’t perfect – nowhere is – but having lived in Karmiel helps me appreciate RBS in a way I couldn’t have appreciated it if I had moved directly here from the US.