Even though we were completely exhausted after taking the psychometric exam, we had promised good friends who live in Petach Tikva that we’d come for dinner, and we couldn’t disappoint them. How we originally met the “F” family is a story in itself.
Many years ago, our eldest son was volunteering for Bikur Cholim, an organization that provides practical as well as emotional support and guidance to people who are hospitalized or seriously ill, as well as their families. At the time, there were several Israelis who were undergoing kidney transplants at an East coast hospital, and since he is fluent in Hebrew, our son volunteered to be of assistance via the Bikur Cholim organization.
Although Mr. F’s transplant was successful, he would be unable to return to Israel in time for the Passover holiday. He was in the US with his wife; his children (the youngest was only 9 years old) were staying with relatives in Israel and would have to celebrate this very family-oriented holiday without their parents.
Our son asked if we would mind having them as our guests during the Passover holiday; otherwise they’d be staying in a hotel near the hospital and eating alone. Well, as it says in the Passover Haggada, “Let all who are hungry come and eat!” and so they came and stayed with us in our home over Passover.
Mr. F (the transplant recipient) was born on the island of Djerba in Tunisia. He emigrated to Israel when he was a small child, but he had a thick Sephardi accent and he spoke a rapid-fire Hebrew, so it took our complete concentration to understand him.
Mrs. F was a Cochin Jew from India, having also immigrated to Israel as a small child. Now working as a Hebrew teacher, she enunciated very clearly and we were able to understand everything (in Hebrew) that she said.
Although our backgrounds could not have been more different, we quickly became close friends and have remained so to this day. We love the fact that despite our very different backgrounds, the thing that binds us together is our diverse Jewish heritage which meets and melds and binds us as one in the Land of Israel.
Every time we’ve visited Israel, we make sure to spend time with the “F’s” where we relive the miracle of Mr. F’s successful kidney transplant and the journey from near-death to a happy, healthy life. Mr. F has lived to walk his daughter down the aisle and recently, experience the joy of becoming a grandfather.
While we were at the “F’s” we told them about our quest for a home in Israel. They suggested we take a look at Harish, where their daughter and son-in-law had just bought an apartment.
“Not that there is much to see – – yet. It will be Israel’s newest city, built from the ground up.”
About 15 years ago, Israel built a planned city all at one time, from the ground up, called Modi’in, located in the center of Israel. It’s now a city of 50,000 and prices have quadrupled. In fact, we could not consider Modi’in for ourselves – – it is just not within our budget. But here was a chance to invest in a similar project model. We decided that our last day in Israel, we would check out Harish.
But first, since we were staying in Rehovot, I wanted to visit the town of Mazkeret Batya. A small village only 3 miles from Rehovot, it was founded in the 1800’s. Only recently, on its outskirts, has the village started to expand with new building projects. But the inner core of the village retains its quaint, cobblestoned appearance, with many art galleries, boutique inns, cafes, a delicious bakery, and small museums. What I loved about Mazkeret Batya was that it had the look and feel of Zichron Yaakov, minus the constant arrival and departure of busloads of tourists and schoolchildren on class trips that sometimes turn Zichron Yaakov into a Zionist Disneyland. It’s as if parts of Mazkeret Batya are suspended in time.
From there we traveled north to the not-yet-built massive pile of dirt that will be the new city of Harish. Just across the road from the town of Pardes Chana, right now there isn’t much to see. Currently the hilltop that will house Harish is full of monster trucks and excavation trucks. Electricity, sewers, and roads are all being laid out; only a handful of apartments have begun construction. Mostly there is just noise and dust. There is a small lane where several builders have set up offices in modular trailers. There you can see apartment plans and architectural renderings and maps of what Harish will look like not too far into the future. It’s easy to be dubious. But seeing the success of Modi’in from the ground up, there is no reason to believe that Harish will be any different. It will house a population of 25,000.
From Harish we went to visit Zichron Yaakov. We visited the Baron Hirsch synagogue and were delighted to find ourselves in the middle of a local school’s first grade end-of-the-year performance coinciding with the upcoming celebration of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (Festival of Weeks), which commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Mt. Sinai (and is also a harvest festival, and it’s when the Book of Ruth is read in the synagogue ).
Alas, our trip to Israel was at an end. The next morning we would be traveling via Turkish Air to Boston, and then back to Maine. We saw so much, and would need time to absorb the vast amount of information we gathered. But I think we felt closer to making a decision about where we will make our home, as we contemplate our future and final destiny.