I had the distinct merit and pleasure of spending this past Shabbat with religious immigrants from the former Soviet Union, in the tiny outpost town of Givat Yano’ach…roughly 5km outside of Itamar in Northern Samaria (just south of the main Palestinian city of Nablus). It’s right next door to the well known Givot Olam organic dairy farm, where young Jews from all around Israel and the world come to work and live.

The town was founded roughly 13 years ago by Alexander Gimburg, who emigrated from Tajikistan where he worked…yet his family originally hails from Ukraine. He had originally founded the outpost town by the name of “777” which is situated right next to The Lookout Point of Three Seas, where one can see the Mediterranean, Lake Kinneret and the Dead Sea on a clear day. There he lived in everything from tents to caravans.

He eventually came to start Givat Yano’ach with a few other immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. I asked Alex why he came to this place and he answered half-jokingly:

“Over there I was building socialism…here I’m building Zionism ;)”

Gennady, another resident of Givat Yano’ach hails from the Carpathian Mountains, speaks fluent Ukrainian (as well as Russian and Hebrew) and as it turns out, attended the same university as my father, Lvov Polytechnic Institute, where he majored in Civil Engineering. They are the same age, but Gennady graduated four years after due to his army service. (My father majored in Applied Math).

Gennady is the town’s “construction manager” aka handy-man. He built a house with his bare hands—one of the few full homes in Givat Yano’ach—in just under a year.

As with most of the names of the cities in Judea and Samaria, the name Yano’ach originates from the Tanach. It was a town on the border of the territories held by the tribes of Ephraim and Menashe.

When Jews bless their children on Shabbat, they bless their boys to be like Ephraim and Menashe, as they were the only two brothers of the twelve who did not quarrel with each other.

Gideon's Tomb

Gideon’s Tomb

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Myself with friends from RAJE (Russian American Jewish Experience)…a kiruv organization based in Brooklyn, NY

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IDF pillbox

IDF pillbox

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Rabbi of the neighboring town of Gideon's Tomb

Rabbi of the neighboring town of Gideon’s Tomb

Surveying the landscape

Surveying the landscape

the house that Gennady built

the house that Gennady built

Gennady

Gennady

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Dining Hall

Dining Hall

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Alex preparing sleeping acommodations for the guests

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Guest Ariella Esther preparing potatoes for the Shabbat stew

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Me with the Lookout Point of the Three Seas in the background

 

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Shabbat comes in

Shabbat comes in

Havdalah

Havdalah