Saturday, 18 May 2013

why do you live in ramat beit shemesh, then?

people seem to keep asking me why we live in ramat beit shemesh.

so i'll answer you all, once and for all.

first of all, ok, i know, i've been complaining a bit. that's becasue this is my blog, and i treat it as my therapeutic outlet to let off steam. i'm alot more likely to write about something that annoys me than about things which are, really, pretty much of an alright. also maybe i indulge a little in poetic license. but only a little.

so. why do we live in ramat beit shemesh and not anywhere else in israel? surely there's plenty of other options. well first of all i am not going to go into detail about why we did not choose any particular other place, because people who live there might get upset.  but much of why we chose to live here was due to the process of elimination. i wanted to live near to yerushalayim: that ruled out the north, where ben would have loved to have moved to. we wanted somewhere with a decent percentage of anglos, which ruled out quite a few other places. a couple of places we seriously considered were ruled out because i decided i would not manage with the heat (even worse than ramat beit shemesh). after a lot of consideration, i concluded that i was not such a country girl as i had liked to think i was, and i would stultify on a moshav or yishuv. this ruled out a few more places.

now for the positives. ramat beit shemesh has a lot of anglos (this is also a bad thing, because it's harder to integrate into israeli society, and also there are a lot of teenage off-the-derech and at-risk kids who were brought by their parents and couldn;t fit into such a charedi environment). because it has alot of anglos, it has a lot (more) school options than just the charedi cheder/beis yaakov or the dati leumi mamad/mamad torani. neither of which would suit us in their usual israeli incarnations. two of our three children are, we think, in schools which are very well suited for them (ok, i realise we might have found schools that are ideal for them elsewhere also, but suffice it to say that we are happy with the schools two of them are in).

we - together - have a rather interesting concatenation of hashkafot, vis a vis medinat yisrael, working men, learning women, secular education, and other minor topics like daas torah. ramat bet shemesh has, possibly despite appearances from the outside, something of a variety of people who represent a variety of hashkafot (on the range from dati leumi all the way to israeli-learning-in-kollel-charedi). although there are alot of people here whom i have met and felt a real disconnect with, i have also met and made friends with lovely people who talk my language and share my values, concerns, and approach to serving Hashem. i don;t agree with everyone i meet, but then where would that be likely to happen?

there is a lot of support here for new olim. this does go along with rather an abundance of anglos, which has its down side, but the support programs have been wonderful.

i have been thinking a lot about the different groups of jews here, and the friction that sometimes results between them. although it can manifest itself in unpleasant ways sometimes, on the whole i think that it is a good thing, to have these different jews with different hashkafot living together. rav aryeh kaplan wrote once
"perhaps even more than zionists or anti-zionists, Hashem wanted the tension and polarity between them. the polarity itself creates energy. If the energy is not dissipated in machlokes, then i has positive aspects..."
i think that might be the same for living here. there is polarity and tension between different people here, but that polarity creates energy. i think that one is forced to continue to think about who you are, what you are doing and why you are doing it, when you are constantly faced with people who do things differently - sometimes very obvious things, and sometimes very differently - to how you do them. there is an energy here, with all the different groups, which i think might not be present in a more homogenous place.

finally, i do not think that there is anywhere that is perfect for us. even my husband and i don;t think the same on some key haskafic issues, how would we find one place that suits both of us on every issue? so we are going to have to do some accomodating and accepting wherever we live. the only other option to us was yerushalayim. but we have landed in ramat beit shemesh, and even if that is not the best place for us, we are going to stay here and make it be the best place for us for at least the next 5 years or so, maybe the next 10 years.

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