Moving away from America is hard. Say goodbye to genuine customer service and the space between you and the person behind you at the ATM. There will be no more good Mexican food and your paycheck will barely cover the bills never mind the evil student loans that put you in more debt than plastic surgery on Joan River’s face.
And then a war breaks out (again) and your friends and family in America beg for you to just come home. Back to Target and Trader Joe’s and Sunday Brunch’s with maple syrup. They are worried and think you’re nuts for moving to the Middle East. Who would do something like that?
I guess I would. And also the people around me living in my amazing (I really want to use a different word here but I don’t think I am allowed to) community in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv.
It’s here that I found friendship in my late 20’s, no small feat as anyone in their late 20’s will tell you (all those in college make sure you enjoy how easy it is to bond over a keg). There are dozens of young families here. People from all over the world and native Israelis. New families are moving in all the time. Our community is growing.
Every month we host a Potluck Kiddush lunch at someone’s house, with around fifty families showing up for free and tasty food. Dispersed amongst the ten types of kugel and that most delicious pot of Rachel’s famous cholent, are children running around, new babies being added to the mix, older residents introducing the newbies in town and even Ulpan Etzion (5-month Hebrew learning program for new immigrants) students who come for the free food and hopefully get more than they expected on their plate.
We have movers and shakers here. Creating a new elementary school, fighting for better parks without giant cat litter boxes, more buses, and more coffee shops (or really just the one). And all of this is just our Armon on a normal day.
But in a time of war, well that’s when you really learn what community is. When the riots broke out and came to some of our doorsteps, we formed a group online to keep everyone informed and make sure we could help each other in an emergency. When the first siren went off, my husband was out with other men buying tasty treats for the reservists that just got called up from our neighborhood. A quick post on Facebook got us a total of nine pizzas at a discount price from the local (if not shady) pizza guy. After that siren my friends invited me over for Shabbat meals. Because we all wanted to be together.
On Shabbat our children played in the park together as we had an impromptu picnic. And just like that the sirens caught me in the middle of making my tuna wrap and rushing into a friend’s shelter. Someone grabbed my kid, I grabbed someone’s dog, and we ended up keeping our spirits high hiding deep in a dark shelter…together.
This week our community will be organizing Shabbat meals and hospitality for families that need a much needed break from the rocket fire down south. Together people have opened up their homes, are bringing out their fancy recipes for Shabbat, donating from their own businesses, and have even started storing up on beer (for the adults), to make sure the families get the Armon Hanatziv community family experience (we will be playing board games all night).
I am home. America with all its treats (and yes, I would do anything for a burrito with real salsa and Trader Joe’s dried mangos) is my past. Living in this community, raising my children in a school my friends founded, sushi nights, movie nights, late nights, scary nights, borrowing diapers, kiddie pool parties, picking up someone else’s kids from daycare, making meals for brand new mothers, baking hallah to welcome new people into the community, jamming out with our kids at musical Havdallah, finding more chairs for the Shabbat table, going for a run with people that run faster than me, this is where I want to be. This is my community. My home. And my future.
For families that would like to join us for this Shabbat please email email@example.com