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Monday, October 24, 2016

The road less settled: 8 reasons to consider living in the REST of Israel.

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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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Things that are cool in Israel #9: Tripping over history

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Are you a dummy about history?

Don’t know your Maccabees from your Hasmoneans?  Can’t tell Greeks, Romans and Babylonians apart?  Well, relax – there’s no way you could be dumber about Israeli history than I am.

And the great thing about living in Israel is you just kind of ABSORB history by living here.  It’s all over – so much so that at certain times and places, you’re actually tripping over it.  Like today, when we went and visited a whole bunch of graves.

Even if you find graves kind of creepy (who doesn’t?), even the gravest sites in Israel have been thoroughly sanitized by time and by the nice archaeology people who are in charge of removing the bones to Elsewhere for a proper burial before they swing the doors wide to tourists.

Sure, Israel has some big-name graves (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Maimonides being two of the biggies), but we decided to head a little off the beaten path today to celebrate one of Northern Israel’s cultural treasures – the grave of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nassi (Judah the Prince), otherwise known throughout the Talmud as “Rabbi.”  Why does this guy merit the one-name appellation, out of all the rabbis who have ever lived, throughout Jewish history?

Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nassi is better known as the REDACTOR of the Mishna.  He was the editor, the guy who pulled together all the oral traditions floating around and single-handedly, perhaps, saved Judaism as we were poised on the brink of a very long exile.

After Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nassi requested to be buried there around the year 217, the village of Beit She'arim in the Jezreel Valley became THE trendy burial site for Northern Israel.  Lots of famous and wealthy people hurried to follow his example.  So there are lots and lots and lots of long-ago relatives to visit, in a lovely park-like setting on a deliciously breezy hillside.

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