As part of our community blog content at ON THE MOVE, we present our interview series, where we invite movers to bring their thoughts not only on the physical move but on the intensely personal experience of moving house. Here we explore the spirituality and psychology of Home and why where we live means so much to us. We want to hear your story, please share it with us.
How did you envision living in Yavniel?
I envisioned living in a more natural, pastoral landscape, quieter and more peaceful than the city, without traffic in the background.
I knew exactly what I was looking for.
Has Yavniel met up to your standards?
Yes! Pretty much, though there have been surprises.
For starters, let's take the animals. The sounds and smells took some getting used to, especially the roosters, who don't necessarily crow at dawn, as I thought. They woke me up at 3-4 AM every morning, so sleeping had to be learned. I did not grow up this way, so I was unfamiliar with country living.
It has helped me to appreciate them more, the animals, though it's taking time to get used to, for sure. For example, the kids can caress the cats and other animals easily, but I'd never dream of it! I didn't expect it, and there're a few snakes around, so at least cats are good for that. [laughs] Don't get me wrong, I love animals, I would just never think about cuddling up to them.
Another unexpected factor was arriving to the shops, and seeing how their produce variety is lacking here; there are red peppers, for example, but no other colors. In the city you have everything in a grocery store, that's the way things are. I came to realize what a luxury that is and how I'd taken it for granted. What efforts the grocers must go to! The farmers... their harvest, transport, stocking the shelves—I appreciate it now like never before.
The more pleasant surprises were plenty. The community is warm and very welcoming. The family unit here is strong and giving; we exchange babysitting, or just look out for one another's kids. This is something that's easily done in the country, as opposed to the city, where there's so much more going on, so there's a bit more of looking out for your immediate self.
The cost of living is much cheaper in the country, and we have a lovely zimmer we care for in exchange for rent, which is truly wonderful. My husband is really into sustainable living, how to live in harmony with our surroundings, so the country was a natural choice, and everything we do here supports that goal.
Tell us about "home." Do you miss it?
I miss the transportation. Waiting for the bus in the country is far longer, and if you want to run a few errands, you have to plan your schedule well.
So, yes, I miss the comforts of Jerusalem, and the immediacy of things, shopping, for example, there's everything you need. City life is obviously a lot easier in that regard; but the difficulties of having to travel from Yavniel into the city allows me to appreciate the effort that goes into country living.
On a spiritual, level I miss the "air" of Jerusalem, and you really do feel it. I look forward to coming into the city every Tuesday, but, in the current climate, I also want to get back to my moshav sooner than later.
We love Jerusalem, it gave us a lot. And even though I miss the city, I feel we came to the right place. We fit in here, in our own unique way, as everyone does.
Personally, I do miss Jerusalem very much. I also miss my teaching job that I had to give up—that's something I really enjoyed. It's harder here, and I've thought about teaching in Yavniel, but I'd like to sink my teeth into something new. I'm taking a three-year course in bibliotherapy, that's what I come into Jerusalem for on Tuesdays.
I'd prefer to feel safer on the street, though! It's been so quiet, because not many people are out on the streets. It was traumatic for me, on the first days of the attacks, because I heard all the sirens, very tough… I thought to myself that maybe I should cancel my course. But honestly? As difficult as it is, we have to continue our routine… we cannot let terrorism win by giving in to our fear. I do understand those who can't go out; if I didn't have to come into the city, I wouldn't!
My husband taught me some martial art skills… they give me confidence. Hopefully things will change. Please God, we should have more peace. We have faith at least; we know we're in the right place.
In an earlier conversation, you mentioned you had projects going, is there any one in particular you'd like to tell our readers about?
Yes. One of the reasons we decided to leave the city is because my husband is deeply into a self-sustainable way of living. Permaculture, growing veggies, managing gray water… he has a beautiful system, working with the laws of nature. We hope soon to build a solar-powered oven.
My husband is teaching me about this way of life, and slowly, I'm beginning to understand it more and more. He's always felt a deep connection to the earth and agriculture.
One great opportunity of Yavniel is that there's land for sale here, and his dream is to build a solar-powered house, grow our own food, live simply with the land, within our means. We can find ways to live in harmony with the elements, creatively and mindfully. Really it’s like how to save the planet! Conservation… his dream is to make people aware of this option, so we can all live happily, naturally.
Where's your favorite place to take in the local culture?
Definitely the Kinneret. I'm a water person, born in Adar. Anything to do with water makes me happy. Drinking it, the sound of it, swimming, observing it, the tranquility of it, rivers… when I come out of water I feel like a new person, both figuratively and literally!
[At this point I ask Avishag if she is a water sign, astrologically speaking, and, yes, she is a Pisces—the fish!]
The beautiful, breathtaking sight and the relaxing touch of the water, well, it instills the feeling of joy and relaxation. Traveling to Tiberias in the morning, I see the water glistening, the sun's rays dancing across it, it's a magical site.
But the closest place I regularly visit is the Kinneret.
How do your children like living in Yavniel?
They do enjoy it, thank God. They go to a Chabad school, very small, very warm. One of my daughters is shy, and it was hard for her, before, in the big city school; now she feels more comfortable, accepted… I think the smaller size offers individual attention.
There's such a warm family atmosphere here, the people are wonderful. It is hard for the children, because they miss Jerusalem very much in terms of many more friends living close by. Here, their friends are scattered around the moshavim, at quite a distance, and, with no car, it makes meeting more difficult. And they do get bored and complain sometimes, as all children do.
Our neighbors have kids that go to the same school, and so they do have friends, but they'd just like more friends around, you know?
There's also the issue of the extreme heat in Yavniel. We have had a very hot summer--Baruch HaShem—we had a great rainfall recently. We haven't experienced a "real" winter, so we do suffer from the heat, which affects the mood. The children walk to school, so, on the way back, it's much hotter, and they just have to bear the heat. It's not easy.
Also, country life has fewer things available for them, so I can't always get the things they want right away. But because of this, they really appreciate the life they had, and no longer take what they had for granted. They've learned to appreciate things more.
Aside from the fact that it's The Holy Land, what's your favorite part about living in Yavniel?
The diverse community. It's so very interesting. It's a Chabad community, and non-religious also, plus there's a group of converts. There's a Georgian family here. Our neighbor is one of something like 11 siblings—they all converted to Judaism! They were farmers in Georgia, living off the land, now four of the brothers live in Yavniel. They're amazing. One of them, our neighbor, has such impressive children. They work in the morning before school, and they're so strong!
My husband sees that they're really prepared for life—he's into homeschooling, martial arts, growing your own food, etc. It's such a different frame a mind… sometimes people can't understand it. He wants to do practical things, to survive, to understand wilderness survival. He looks to the future, and so he's particularly impressed by the converts, and how they work the land… they are earthy people and are very respectful of others. When you live on a farm, you have to respect one another and work for one another.
There's also a convert from Canada.
We have three families from South Africa, speaking Afrikaans, which is very interesting for me. When I lived there, the language was compulsory, so I studied it, and I never thought I would hear it in Israel! They're extremely devoted religious people, speaking Afrikaans. Very nice to see, dedicated, sincere, heartfelt, and they live so simply and modestly.
They're searching for the truth… these converts really have a sincere way of looking at life. It's amazing to learn from them, I feel they can teach me much more that I can teach them… they take things so sincerely, they keep their standard of living modest and humble, keep the mitzvot, and, at the same time, they don't give up on a natural way… they want to retain the farm and a simple, natural way of living—wonderful people. Really very kind.
There' such a mixture here… the fact that's life is so simple, there's a humility here, and no one feels like they're missing out, everyone is accepted for who they are. Don't misunderstand me, we had wonderful neighbors in Jerusalem, but if you're different from someone you feel it, and it's not like that here. You fit in.
The last thing I want to say is that the nature is strikingly beautiful. The high mountains and tall trees all around give a palpable potential for growth and unity, in every sense. People are more connect to nature here; they grow and make their own food--tahini & hummus—milk products from their own animals, fresh eggs from chickens, you can appreciate firsthand where your food comes from.
Thank you so much for taking the time for the interview.
You're welcome, Sherrill, many blessings and success with everything.
Interviews and Culture Page
Here we share the (moving) moving stories of our fabulous clients, plus tidbits of information on Jewish culture and community to make your reading experience unforgettably enjoyable.