I love Israel – absolutely every inch of it. But as you may have noticed, we’ve made the decision to live outside of the centre of the country.
Not that I’m knocking the centre of the country – it’s great. I love it, and I travel there regularly.
But there is life for English-speaking olim beyond Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv, Raanana, Rechovot and Beit Shemesh. With that in mind, here are eight great reasons why (whether you’re here already or thinking of aliyah) you really ought to consider the REST of the country…
1) It's ALL holy.
It says in Kesuvos 112 that “anyone who walks four Amos in Eretz Yisrael is guaranteed a share in the world to come.” Now, there is some dispute about the Biblical boundaries of the country, and so some bits of desert around Eilat may not count. But the fact is that the mitzvah is to live here in the country itself, on the holy land Hashem gave to Avraham Avinu. Not just one or two selected cities.
2) It's not THAT far away.
While Yerushalayim remains at the centre of our thoughts and prayers, most people who live elsewhere don't get there all the time, even if they’re right next door in Beit Shemesh or Maaleh Adumim. And wherever you live, if you do feel like travelling to Yerushalayim, it's probably not that hard, and it's getting easier all the time as more and more of the country is connected with great train and bus lines.
3) National security
It’s pretty hard to defend borders if you’re not actually using the land within them. Now that the Golan is ours, for instance, we need growing, young cities like Katzrin, which is attracting a nice chunk of olim – and good for them. Same with Nahariya, just a few minutes from the Lebanon border. It’s the “Use It or Lose It” principle in action, on a national scale. Pretty hard standing up for a land if you don’t care about most of it.
4) Affordable living
This one's huge, and kind of obvious. Outside the centre of the country, the cost of living is waaaaay lower. Everybody wants to live in Yerushalayim or Tel Aviv. Few can afford it. On top of that, you'll probably get more bang for your housing buck - a larger place, a better shot at a ground-floor apartment, better access to transit. If you need to be in the centre of the country a lot, take a look up and down the train line (or the “Kvish 6” highway) and you may find a community that can combine a decent commute with a nice, affordable place to live.
If you're 20-something, and you can afford it, I highly recommend living in Yerushalayim. It's exciting, it's fun, and there's a great singles scene. But if you're raising kids, you may be looking for something more suburban. Outside of Yerushalayim, there really are places where the streets run in straight lines and there is breathing space and even spacious outlet malls. It's not everybody's scene, but it's worth considering.
6) It's the economy.
There's a financial crisis going on in the Israeli economy and it has been for a while. The cities in the centre of the country get all the money and most of the attention - for tourism, improvements and more. Some of us think it's better to spread the money out. There's plenty for tourists to see and do in northern or southern Israel outside of the main centres in Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv.
7) The REAL Israel.
Okay, there are lots of places you can go to experience the REAL Israel. Actually, almost every oleh who lives outside of one of the main Anglo communities will tell you that where they live is the real Israel. And of course, it’s silly to say that communities with lots of English-speakers are NOT the “real Israel.” But if you’re looking for less daily contact with English speakers and hoping to integrate into mainstream Israeli society, you’ll probably have a lot more opportunities to do so if you’re living away from the centre.
8) It's diverse.
This can be a plus or a minus. It's easy for olim to move to Yerushalayim or another big city in the heart of Israel and find a neighbourhood full of people who look and dress and think like you do. It's harder to find your niche outside of the centre, but it IS easier to meet a broader range of people. Like in any small town, people are forced to spend time with others - and I think that's a good thing that enriches all of our lives.
If you’re living in Israel, where do you recommend that olim look for their new home in Israel??? Share your ideas in the Comments.