These are the reflections of a formerly bourgeois modern-orthodox wife and mother who made Aliya several years ago, and became an idealistic pioneer of emuna on a settlement in the Judean Hills.
When I lived in the UK, I loved visiting Eretz Yisrael, but I definitely didn’t think about it on a daily basis. I was far too busy working, shopping, worrying – all the many things far too many of us waste far too much of our time on. But then, a couple of years ago we made the move to Eretz Yisrael and slowly, things began to change. Initially, we picked a ‘safe’ neighbourhood, with nice, big, new houses, on the ‘right’ side of the green line.
Initially, we felt very at home in this neighbourhood. It had the same obsession with careers and buying stuff that we’d just left behind abroad. But after a few months, instead of feeling more at home, we started to feel more out of place.
Hashem, in his wisdom, had sent us some very challenging circumstances to deal with, and all the old ways we had of solving our problems abroad – trying more, working more, arguing more, using more of our connections, using more of our intelligence, etc – just weren’t working at all in Eretz Yisrael.
By chance (although nothing ever happens by chance) we stumbled across the ‘LazerBeams’ website, and over the course of many long months, we realised that Hashem was sending us our difficulties to teach us about emuna. The more we learned about emuna, the more we changed as people and the more our relationship to Eretz Yisrael and the people who live here was transformed. We noticed it in small ways at first; like a willingness to drive on ‘dangerous’ roads like the 443; or into ‘dangerous’ areas like Gush Etzion. Or to take on ‘dangerous’ subjects, like the ongoing plight of the evacuees from Gush Katif, which many of our acquaintances simply weren’t interested in.
Increasingly, when we started to look at the world with emuna, we realised that we simply weren’t seeing the same things that our acquaintances, and many of our friends and family overseas were seeing.
Time went on, and Hashem sent us some very clear signs that we’d outgrown that first Anglo yuppie-style neighbourhood. We started looking around for something more suitable and initially, we settled on a settlement outside of Jerusalem. Today, we are living in the heart of Gush Etzion.
In all honesty, I was still scared of all the question marks hanging over the settlements in Judea and scared of what could happen on the roads in the Gush if another intifada kicked off, G-d forbid. But, my fears evaporated as I discovered that Gush Etzion is home to some of the most emuna-filled Jews you could hope to meet.
Some people talk a lot about having emuna. The people here live it on a daily basis, and it’s the sort of emuna that you simply can’t fake. A storm raged in our head. On the one hand, Hashem had brought us to a community that was perfect for us and our kids in almost every way. On the other hand, how crazy would you have to be to try and set down roots in one of the most politically unstable areas of Eretz Yisrael?
Before we moved here, we’d been so mindful of staying on the ‘right’ side of the green line – but that was before we started trying to live our lives with Emuna. I was still uncertain, though, that we really had what it takes to live here. So I asked Hashem to give me a sign that we were really up to the challenge and privilege of living in Gush Etzion. He did:
We sold our old house in one day, a miracle in itself, which enabled us to by our lovely home here in Gush Etzion.
But what sort of crazy moves their family to the ‘dangerous West Bank’, and tries to buy a house on land slated to be ‘given back’ to the Arabs?
Over the past few months, we’ve had different versions of these questions posed to us by many of our friends and family, both abroad and in the ‘safe’ neighbourhood of Eretz Yisrael.
I understand where they are coming from. But as I try to explain to them, there are no guarantees anywhere in the world. With the rise of Islamo-terrorism and tension with the West; increasingly unpredictable and destructive weather patterns; and the looming spectre of a global recession that will dwarf anything we’ve seen so far, where is ‘safe’ today?
When I look at the world with emuna, I can see that Eretz Yisrael is the safest possible place for a religious Jew. There is nothing in our Tanach saying that Israel will be destroyed, G-d forbid, or that the Jews will be exiled for a third time. But there is plenty in there talking about the war between Persia and Edom and predicting the complete destruction of Western civilisations.
Why am I here, in the Gush? Because Hashem put me here. I tried plenty of other places and options, but He kept bringing me back to this one place. So I have emuna that whatever happens in the future, it’s for my best. If G-d forbid, we get kicked out and we lose all the money tied up in the house – it’s for the best.
In the meantime, every week I drive round the corner and visit Kever Rochel; every month, we go to Hevron to visit the Maarat Hamachpeila; and every day, I live in an area that is so rich with our culture and history.
For us, the question now is not ‘why are we living here’, but ‘why isn’t everyone else?’