Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ramat Beit Shemesh, First Glance

My husband and I spent Shabbat in Ramat Beit Shemesh at a family Bar Mitzvah.  He has relatives there who made aliyah a year ago.  I had never been there before, no real occasion to.  And when they had invited us to an open house, my father was living with us, and there was no way I could go.

So, when we were invited for a Shabbat Bar Mitzvah now that my father is with my mother in Arizona, it was a great opportunity.  I checked out travel options and was very impressed that they have bus service every five- ten minutes from Jerusalem.  Even better was the discovery that the bus route coincides with ours for a bit.  We got a tremp (ride) from Shiloh to the Shmuel HaNavi junction where's there's a stop, so that's where we took took bus.

From things I had read, I expected to see chareidi ladies in burqas and other odd sights, but basically, it reminded me of a flatter, newer and greener and prettier version of Har Nof.  There's a similar mix of chareidi and dati le'umi, mostly English speakers, like Har Nof was when recently built.

We prayed in an English speaking shul, where everything is in English, as if we were in Brooklyn or Monsey.  I liked the tinted mechitza window and had a feeling that I had seen Rafi of Life in Israel when peering down.  Being an "honorary aunt" of the Bar Mitzvah boy, I had a front seat.  So when my husband told me that he had met him, I hoped to see him, too.  After Mincha ( I was the only woman in shul) Rafi bravely broke with public protocol and said "hello" to me on the sidewalk.  Unlike in Shiloh, men and women only say "Shabbat Shalom" to the same sex even when walking as married couples.

More after my swim etc.


Jennifer in MamaLand said...

Everybody has suggested RBS to us - lots of olim, lots of Canadians. I'm hesitant, however. If I want to be surrounded by North Americans, especially chareidi ones, I'd move a few blocks north and take advantage of our local black-hat community. Curious to hear more of your perception... (but turning in for the night right now!)

Batya said...

I agree with you. The best is to go to a more Israeli place where your children will become more Israeli and you will, too. There are places, like Shiloh, with enough English speakers to help out and feel comfortable, but the society is in-gathering of the exiles.

Rafi G. said...

oops. I didnt know I broke protocol. sorry. I pretty much do my own thing and dont believe much in protocol...

Batya said...

Rafi, that's what makes you a good blogger!

Rachel said...

Hi there,

I am a local RBSer and just wanted to add that it is not ll the same. We moved from Toronto, and have found a really nice dati leumi community here. I will tell you it is not the easiest to find- but if I can help in any was please let me know.

Anonymous said...

Is there a difference between protocol and minhag hamakom? If not, there you cant ignore mihag hamakom.

In addition, there are halachos governing the interactions between men and women. Are you saying that the inherent issur of men and women talking doesnt apply to those who decide to break protocol? Or do you feel that there is no such issur for a man to approach a woman and say hello just for the heck of it?

Anonymous said...

If you make aliyah to an Anglo center, especially if your work does not bring you into contact with a large percentage of Israelis, you will remain permanently out of it and be an embarassment to your Israeli children.

25 years ago, I promised myself I would never do that, and threw myself into speaking and reading Hebrew and getting to know the best of Israeli culture (It does exist, you know).

I still have an accent, and I am still "the American", but in a largely Israeli social sphere. If you learn the lingo, and learn to become interesting in Hebrew, most Israelis will find you wonderfully exotic.

And if I embarass my children, it's not because of my Hebrew, my taste in music, or my taste in literature. It's not everything, but it's something.

And being exotic is much more fun than sitting around and bitching about the Natives.

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

@Rachel - I certainly hope to bump into you over there. Maybe buy some of that jewellery at last! But also do hope to find a spot that's a bit more "ours." We shall see. Ted's Hebrew is worse than mine and we have to take into consideration the fact that he will always be VERY Anglo.

@Anonymous#1 - "Inherent issur"? I agree that one should respect minhag hamakom, but there is also a kiddush Hashem in greeting outsiders, regardless of gender.

@Anonymous#2 - Agreed! I'm not afraid: I am already an embarrassment to my teenage children, right here in the city where I was raised, speaking unaccented English! :-)))

Rafi G. said...

who determines what minhag hamakom is?
All I did was go over to somebody I know who was from a different city and was a guest in my town and my shul and I greeted them. I said good shabbos, I asked how Batya was doing and if she enjoyed the bar mitzva and being a guest in our neighborhood.. There was no hanging out together or anything like that. It was a polite greeting between acquaintances/friends and welcoming a guest.

If you think there is some inherent issur in such a thing, so be it.

Batya said...

Rachel, the part of RBS we were in does have all sorts of Torah Jews. The atmosphere on the streets was very pleasant; it's a pretty place.

a1, as Rafi said, he's no stranger to me, so we spoke. And today at the "party" I saw someone else I know from the jblogger conventions and spoke to him.

The Shabbat street scene in Shiloh is a different one, but it's a different place.

a2, I still have trouble reading long things in Hebrew, but my speech is fluent. What's really worrying in the very anglo neighborhoods is that kids don't hear enough high level Hebrew which holds them back accademiclly.

Jennifer, finding the right place is like fitting shoes. Once you know your priorities, you'll know whose feet to use as a measure.

Rafi, I was glad to meet again. Where is the synagogue ark from?

Rafi G. said...

as far as I know it was commissioned locally to an aron kodesh company to be made...

YMedad said...

a) I thought so. It looked too new and quite high even for an American schule.

b) as for Anon 8:10 - if he (or she) is serious about that
"inherent issur of men and women talking..", well, we all remember Avot 1:5 - "Yossi ben Yochanon from Jerusalem said: "..And don't overemphasize light conversation with your spouse. They said this about one's own spouse, how much more so about the spouse of your friend." This Aish translation
is off though as the use of האשה is a generic term from all women as this translation has it: "do not make too much conversation with
women (with regard to a man’s own wife did he says this, all the more so when it comes to another man’s wife)."

So, (a) either we revert to polygamy so we can make exact comparisons to the Talmudic time; or (b) we simply say that since there is a qualifier, "too much", we can safely say that to be polite and to say hello and inquire as to the familoy and one's health and general curtesy would be within the permitted activity although some places I visit in Meah Shearim could be problematic and I hear there are places lije that in Bet Shemesh.

Batya said...

Rafi, thanks for the info. The dark wood seems very American to my eyes, but I guess its the taste of the congregation. I had a lovely time at the party last night. and thanks for adding me to your round-up.

Neshama said...

Shalom batya, my husband and I are new to Israel (and I'm typing this on my iPad so the caps and other things are not perfect, and the hour is early), an while I am at ease here my husband is a bit out of his element. I am very interested in what you wrote about beit shemesh because we are looking for the right environment for my husband. Could you contact me so I could get some specifics on the shul etc? I'd veery much appreciate it.

Neshama said...

Batya, it's

Batya said...

Neshama, the person to contact is Rafi. Click his name and you'll get his blog.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous #2"

Batya said: "What's really worrying in the very anglo neighborhoods is that kids don't hear enough high level Hebrew which holds them back accademiclly."

Wow, I never imagined it went as far as that. My kids held me personally responsible for all the irregularities in English grammar and spelling, and strongly preferred reading in Hebrew until they reached 7th-8th grade and became convinced they might yet get some advantage out of that stupid language.

We payed for private and semi-private tutoring, we read aloud in English until teenage years, and their performance in "dovrei Anglit" was erratic until they finally decided on their own to work on reading English.

Their Hebrew writing, reading, and comprehension skills are really superior though, and when I ask them to check my written work, they assure me that, in spite of spelling mistakes and gender inconsistency, my writing is not bad at all.

Batya said...

a, of course it depends on how much additional, besides school, Hebrew the kids hear. Many kids only watch English TV, movies etc further limiting Hebrew vocabulary.

Many parents think that they're doing something "clever" by aiming to have their children's English on an English as first language level. The problem is that it's frequently at the expense of their Hebrew.

PM Bibi Netanyahu was teased by his father when elected PM the first time, because his English was on a higher level than Hebrew, because his hs and university studies were in the USA. I think that he has made an effort to upgrade his Hebrew since then.