So… I’ve already kvetched enough about Haifa, in a weird, loving kind of way. I’m sure you’re all wondering what we like about Kiryat Shmuel, at least enough that we’d want to spend a chunk of the next few years here.
Here are eight reasons. Kind of a random number; I just brainstormed until I ran out.
- It’s a suburb. I grew up in a suburb of Toronto. To me, the distance here feels good – about half an hour or so by rapid-transit from the “big city.” The mix of big streets and cozy enclaves also feels about right.
- Public transit. I wanted to get by here without the expense and hassle of a car, and bus service here is generally excellent. Even in a crisis, the buses are usually reliable, although the Metronit (rapid transit) would be better if it was a little more frequent (they come about every 13 minutes).
- Well-connected. With a 5 minute walk to the Kiryat Motzkin train station, we can be almost anywhere in the country about 2 hours. Bus takes a bit longer, because Haifa’s Merkazit HaMifratz bus station is about twenty minutes away. From the local mall, you can get to points north including Akko, Nahariya, Karmiel and Tsfat as easily as getting on a local bus.
- Shopping. There are plenty of local grocery stores, including a big new one here in KShmu. If you want lower prices, there are several big chains not far away, including Osher Ad, Shufersal Deal, Rami Levy. There take-out food places, and even a couple of nice malls a very easy distance away. The only thing really lacking are decent sit-down restaurants, with actual ambience, but I’m sure we’ll find a couple. Oh, did I mention that Israel’s third Ikea store, twenty minutes away, opens on March 11th?! The Krayot are HAPPENING!
- Religious community. Maybe this should go higher on the list! I cannot say enough how wonderful it is to look out the window and see mamas in tichels and skirts and kids with yarmulkes and tzitzis. To know that all the schools here are some kind of religious and that everything revolves around halacha. It’s very, very nice, even if it does mean that taxes to the neighbourhood “vaad” (committee) include a small surcharge to run the mikveh and other religious services.
- Shabbat. I know, I already raved about life in a religious community, but even so – on Shabbos, it’s different. The streets are closed and this is when this community really does feel like an enclave, because the rest of the Krayot, indeed, almost the entire city of Haifa, are open to cars on Shabbos. The kids run and play, the only sound is dogs barking (and barking, and barking) and families walk up and down in the middle of the street. Bonus: the local health clinic, on their list of hours, indicates that they have a non-Jewish doctor from 10-2 on Shabbat – how cool is that??? Okay, I have experienced this before, in Baltimore last year, for instance. And I know also that this is nothing compared to bigger religious neighbourhoods, like the Shabbos we spent in Har Nof, or Elisheva’s experience in Sanhedriya, or the entire religious towns here that close their gates on Shabbos. But to me, it’s not the size of the neighbourhood so much as the feeling that Shabbos is everywhere – the siren goes off and then… it’s really here, at last. (It also smells great when everyone’s cooking on Friday!)
- English speakers. Why am I putting all the best stuff so low on the list?! This is great! There are English speakers here. Not many – maybe about 10 families of olim, although there are other fluent English speakers lurking here and there. (Today, one of the gan mothers wished me a good morning in perfect, unaccented English.) I know 10 families doesn’t sound like much, but what can I say…? It’s a start, and now that the Krayot are included in Nefesh b’Nefesh’s Go North and Movin’ on Up initiatives, there may be more. I heard that the February pilot trip group actually came here this year – right here, in “downtown” Kiryat Shmuel! I hope so. Because KShmu is a religious area, I think it is far more attractive to English-speaking olim (at least, religious ones) than other areas in the Krayot. The core group here is small but reasonably active – no, there’s no English library, but there are Oneg Shabboses every other week, and lots of opportunities to socialize. Everyone seems very friendly, and there are lots of kids of all ages, ranging from newborn to grown-up.
- A nice mix. One thing I like about KShmu is the same thing that drew me to our area of Toronto, which was NOT the main frum community (that’s around Bathurst & Lawrence): it’s not a monolithic community. There’s a really nice mix of people here. If you look at the men, you see srugim (knit kippahs), black hats (some), suits on Shabbos, more casual on Shabbos, and some with no kippah at all (they slap it on when they go to shul). Among the women, there are tichels, sheitels, uncovered hair, skirts, pants, essentially the entire spectrum. The area was described to me as attracting people who are either shomer Shabbos or “who like living in a place that is.” Many Israelis are very traditional in their feelings but aren’t technically shomer mitzvos (observant). There’s a place for them here and, as someone else told me, “our kids play with their kids.” Everybody – apparently – gets along just fine. Maybe this appeals to me because I’m not sure who WE are, religiously, especially in the whole mixed-up rainbow that is religious life in Israel. For now, this seems like a good place to not have to fit in.
It’s weird how these reasons grew, from very short at first to very long at the end. I guess that makes sense, though, to think of the superficial things first and then get into the nitty-gritty.
If any of these reasons make sense to you, here’s some more information by another local English speaker, plus a video:
Welcome to my neighbourhood!