The Cap’n and I were delighted and honored to receive a visit recently from the rabbi of our congregation in America. Usually his trips to Israel are scheduled down to the last minute, but this time he was able to spare enough time to wipe some hummus with us at our home in Efrat.
When the Cap’n and I made the decision to make aliyah a few years ago, we had to decide where to live when we arrived. We discussed the matter with our rabbi, who strongly discouraged us from coming to live in Efrat. An American family he knew had lived in Efrat in the early 2000s when there were frequent road closures, suicide bombings, and the road into Jerusalem was a shooting gallery every night from 8 to 11 PM (in time for the news). The couple, our rabbi told us, had left Efrat and returned to the United States because they could no longer handle the grief and stress of attending a funeral every week.
We listened to him, and for a host of reasons (including his advice) chose Beit Shemesh as our home for our first two years as Israelis. But during our second year, when we were weighing where to make our home for the long-term, we began shopping around for a community and this time decided to consider Efrat again.
We are very glad we did so. The proximity to Jerusalem is a great benefit for shopping, culture, and history. We are better located to see and entertain friends who come to Israel to visit. The climate is the best in the country. There are dozens of choices of schools for our children. We got much more home for our money here than we could have anywhere else we looked. And when we spoke to Efratniks about their experiences during the Second Intifada, they told us about how the community bonded together, how the Emergency Medical Center was built to enable people to receive emergency care in the Gush when the roads were not safe for travel, how two widows whose husbands had been killed on the roads had outfitted a building at Gush Junction to serve coffee, soup, cake, and snacks to the soldiers whose job it is to keep us safe, how amateur music, drama, and dance performances were put on in the Gush to lift the spirits of the residents, how on several occasions armed residents closed down the road to Jerusalem at the Efrat junction and refused to let Arab or U.N. vehicles pass to let them experience first-hand the inconvenience that Jews experienced regularly, and how—remarkably—only a handful of families left the yishuv during those difficult years. Many people we’ve talked to knew the American family who left, and told us that that family had been unhappy living here even before the Intifada began.
Our rabbi reminded us on his recent visit of the family who had left. I can imagine how difficult it must have been to lose members of such a small community. But I can also see that if everyone responded to the violence by pulling up stakes and going back to Chu”l, there would be no Israel. Before the Cap’n and I decided to move to Efrat, we had many conversations about our concerns and feelings living out here. We discussed our options if there is to be a Third Intifada. Heartened by the accounts of those who lived through the last one and our optimism with the current government, well aware of the risks attending living (inside the Green Line) within rocket or mortar range of Arab population centers (or even just driving in this country), and steeled by our resolve to live in what we consider our land in the company of some of the bravest and most admirable people we’ve met in Israel, we have decided that if times get bad again, we will not flee, but will stand our ground. To leave is to let our enemies win. To leave is to abandon Zion. We are not fighting Rome; we will not be led off to exile and slavery in chains. We are here, and we are right. We don’t want to live anywhere else.
And if we forget thee, O Jerusalem, may we be consigned forevermore to a life of sawdust-tasting pita, grainy hummus, and two-day yuntif.