When you learn this commandment in heder at the age of 11 and all you can think about is getting home to eat your bag of Golden Wonder cheese-and-onion sorta kosher crisps, you don’t actually imagine that within three decades you’ll literally be doing that…and then some. Moreover, Lech l’cha umartzecha um’beit avicha – back in the day I truly couldn’t quite imagine making my home anywhere that doesn’t stop on the Northern Line, let alone away from family, friends and everything I had become accustomed to throughout my life to date.
But you know, that’s exactly what I did. And what’s even more incredible about this is that during the 7 years I have been living on Lower PHK (as our street in Efrat has become infamously known by the Anglos on the street), I have seen it grow…and grow…and grow…and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to that.
Amazing. Truly. When Daniel and I first decided we were going to buy the house, we bought both sets of parents to check it out. To say that they looked at each other and then us, aghast, saying something along the lines of “you’re absolutely stark-raving bonkers,” would be an understatement. Y’see, despite the fact that the house my husband instantly fell in love was in Efrat, it was in the newest and most rustic neighborhood, and was only about half-complete, with many areas that are now homes, being a bunch of rubble. And this was five years after its initial establishment. There was no telling how long the rest would take or how long we’d be living in a half-empty place. So, truthfully, I was in agreement with the parents and secretly hoped they’d be able to convince my very determined (thank G-d) husband.
I mean how could I, who had been born and bred in a truly-established London suburb, put myself through this? Where would I buy my stripy tights and tuna bagels for a start? Plus, I didn’t have a valid driver’s license before we signed and should I not get one I “wouldn’t be able to buy a peach on my own,” I kept bemoaning to anyone who, at the time would listen.
But, I got my license (with a lot of tears and bribes). And I did manage to buy a peach on my own. And driving in those days was a dream. You could pretty much drive up and down the street without a license. Because it was like driving in the countryside with 3 other cars maximum in the near vicinity.
And that’s what I mean about the growth of the neighborhood. Seven years down the line, we don’t need to tell people coming to our home for the first time that we live “at the end of the earth and turn left.” We explain instead that we live on “the street that has the most amazing Shabbatot with the cool new shul, the mix of Anglos and Israelis, where kids play in the cul-de-sac street safely on Shabbatot, where the Yom Haatzmaut street carnival is bustling with people coming from near and far, where the super-cool Mideast ManCave is located and where through all of this, a true feeling of ‘building the land of Israel’ has been actualized.
When we first moved in – over seven-and-a-half years ago now – and I would walk my dog around the neighborhood, if I saw one car I would take a peak to see if it was my next door neighbor. Now, on the same route, I have to wait on the pavement to cross as there are so many cars driving up and down. As well, in the morning, I try to miss the “traffic” – because boy-oh-boy you don’t want to get caught behind a bus that has to reverse because another bus is coming in the opposite direction and can’t get through due to all the parked cars in the newly-occupied houses.
Now of course, this has raised my blood pressure somewhat – DO NOT PARK IN MY SPOT – (or what I deem to be MY SPOT), but at the end of the day, this is exactly what the Torah has commanded in at least two places I can think of off the top of my head (and being that I am no Torah scholar – there are probably countless others as well).
My point is this: I am totally stunned, grateful and in awe of the fact that no matter how much I may mess up the other Torah-commandments, boy-oh-boy am I scoring on a daily basis of the one “to inherit the land and live in it,” and even perhaps doing it in a haredi fashion by going above and beyond and being a part of its tremendous growth.