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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Savouring the soil: exploring Kiryat Shmuel with Nefesh b’Nefesh Go North pilot trippers

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Talk about sudden transitions.  A year and a bit ago we were here on a pilot trip.  And yesterday, we stepped into the role of olim vatikim (experienced, or long-time olim) met and spoke with a pilot trip of 20 prospective olim coming to check out northern Israel. 

Our task, along with five other KShmu residents’, was to speak briefly about What We Like About Kiryat Shmuel.

I really should put the word “hosting” in quotes, because the event wasn’t at our tiny place, but in the lovely home of true veteran olim – a couple who have been here for 17 years and raised 5 kids in Kiryat Shmuel. 

Pit stop between Akko and Haifa

As part of a packed Nefesh b’Nefesh Go North pilot trip itinerary, KShmu wound up as one very quick stop on the journey between Akko and Haifa (which, okay, the whole Krayot region kind of is).

The highlight of the event was the 5-minute bus tour of KShmu, which left from our friends’ house and did a nice, leisurely figure-8 around the neighbourhood, ending at the train station – one of the area’s best features (having grown up in a suburb, I don’t count it as a strike against KShmu that one of its nicest attributes is that you can get out of it easily… but some might!).

It was great to get the bus tour… not least because nobody gave us a tour when we first moved in and we’re still trying to figure out where the library is.

On our own pilot trip, beyond the 3-day Nefesh b’Nefesh intensive tour, we got a couple of brief private walking tours (Maaleh Adumim, Ramat Beit Shemesh) and one private car tour (Rechovot), and I think it really made a difference in helping us get a feel for each city.

(Although in the end, we didn’t choose any of those places!)

Questions from the pilot trippers

The pilot trippers asked a variety of questions about life in KShmu:

  1. Does Kiryat Shmuel have its own ulpan?  (No, but the one in Kiryat Yam is very close.)
  2. Is there a Young Israel shul here?  (No, I think the only northern Young Israel is in Karmiel; there are a variety of shuls, but none with davening and/or shiurim in English.)
  3. What kinds of schools does KShmu have?  (A variety, for all ages, including dati le’umi torani, yeshiva-type schools and Chabad, plus a very active Bnei Akiva branch.  Many residents also choose residential schools for high school, either in the north or in the centre of the country.)
  4. What is there for Anglo retirees to do here?  (umm… umm…)
  5. How much do apartments and houses cost?  (It varies; from $250K and up to buy, from $600 and up to rent.)
  6. Where’s the nearest hospital?  (There are 3 in Haifa, including Rambam, a tertiary-care facility; plus, Clalit has the big Zevulun clinic a few minutes away beside the Kiryon mall; plus, there are good clinics of Clalit along with Macabi and others, in the area.)
  7. What are the work opportunities here?  (There are lots of medical-related jobs in Haifa.  For high-tech, jobs, you can either working from home, in Haifa, or in nearby communities like Yokneam… it’s also very easy to commute to other areas – I work one day a week in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, and know somebody who takes the train every single morning to Nahariya.  I also know lots of olim who have found factory and other employment in the area.  Plus, you can always tutor English!)

All great questions, none of which I thought to ask when we visited communities on our own pilot trip.  Though, to be fair, others did a lot of the asking for me.

Apples to oranges?

I don’t know how KShmu stacked up against the other towns they saw. 

To be fair, a place like Akko, Maalot or Karmiel is a city, while KShmu is just a neighbourhood, and a small one at that (so small that when I talk to people who live in Haifa, I have to explain that yes, I do live in the same city as them, and tell them exactly whereabouts we are…).

I hope a few of them were able to see possibility in the place, in any event… or at least, not come away thinking we’re crazy for choosing to live here.

The pilot trip blur experience

On our own pilot trip, last February, we shlepped around from place to place, gathering information, but also meeting people, seeing the inside of Israelis’ houses for the first time (nicer houses than we’d be able to live in, but that’s mainly because of the logistics of fitting in a big group). 

Picturing ourselves living here every day of our lives.

You don’t have a lot of time for musing on a pilot trip.  You don’t have a lot of time for personal reflection… and if you do the group thing, you’ll spend all your time in an English-speaking Nefesh b’Nefesh bubble, not exactly feeling like you’re in the “real Israel.”

Separating terroir from trivialities

Most of the thinking I did on our pilot trip was influenced by small and insignificant things.  Like if someone had a nice painting in her house when she welcomed our group, or  they served tasty cookies, it counted (subconsciously) as a plus for that city. 

When you only have 20 minutes to decide if you’re going to live in a place, you can’t really pick up a ton of meaningful information, no matter how many questions you ask, so the trivialities take on a disproportionate significance.

But maybe as you walk from house to house, view to view, city hall to city hall, you soak up through your feet a little of the soil of each place, its terroir, as the French say [thanks to an astute French friend for fixing my spelling!].  A little of what makes it and its produce – in this case, the people living, growing and thriving there – special and distinct.

I don’t know if KShmu is right for any of the potential olim who were here yesterday, but I wish them and all pilot trippers a klita ne’ima, a pleasant absorption; sinking and being absorbed gracefully, and peacefully, into the dusty terroir of this eternal land.

[photo credit:  Akiva Teddy MacLeod]

2 comments:

  1. The turnaround from pilot trip to veteran Israeli is so quick.

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    1. I think it's partly just here, because there really aren't a lot of Anglo olim (since the area just opened up last summer for the Go North program grants). In Beit Shemesh, I'm sure they could find a variety of "ages" of olim. :-)

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