There is a famous concept in Gemara Berachot that Eretz Yisrael can only be acquired through suffering, which is often quoted when an immigrant suffers a personal or financial setback. Kids struggling in school? Delays in getting your lift here? Had to pay more for something because you did not understand the system? Hard time finding a job? The examples go on and on, and many of them are much more serious than those I just mentioned (all of which we have gone through at one point or another).
We got news a week ago that clearly told us that we have apparently not yet completed the purchase on our little corner of our land (figuratively). A little history lesson . . .
As new olim, we decided to be renters rather than owners for the first couple of years. Having never lived in Israel as a family long-term, we wanted to make sure that the city and neighborhood we had chosen was the right one for our family. Three years after moving to Israel, while still living in the original home we rented, we paid a sizable down payment to build a house in the next round of construction of the Nofei HaShemesh neighborhood, where we had helped found the shul and had many friends.
About seven months later, I introduced our landlord to a neighbor of ours and helped facilitate the sale of the home we were living in. I knew that the landlord was no longer considering a move to Bet Shemesh and I helped out someone who I knew was looking for a long-term solution in exactly the spot where we were living.
With the new landlord intending to actually live in the house, we had to look for another house, as work had not even started on the house we were supposed to build. Thankfully, we had eight months’ notice and plenty of time to find a new rental.
Then, another wrinkle. Our contractor had not sold enough houses to warrant moving forward and canceled all sale contracts (and returned our money—in the end we lost about $4,000 in fees). Although they continue (to this day) telling our neighbors that they intend to finish the entire development, the section we wanted to live in is still not even being marketed for sale. It will be quite some time before it is ever lived in.
At the time, it was incredibly disappointing. We had taken comfort in the knowledge that we had a long-term plan and that it would only be a matter of time before we once again had our own home. So we were kind of back to the drawing board, and it was upsetting. We had no long-term plan and needed a short-term plan as well, as we were only a few months from the lease expiration date.
In my role as shul treasurer, I had to reach out to one of the “absentee” owners of houses in the neighborhood (32 homes had been built in the first round of construction) and discovered that he was looking to rent out the home he owned. Within a matter of weeks, everything was arranged, and almost three years ago we moved to our current home.
Looking back, the construction cancellation worked out for the best. With the opening of the yeshiva in a couple of months, it looks like Bet Shemesh might not be in our long-term plans anymore. As the yeshiva (hopefully) grows and develops, we hope to eventually need to move from our rented facility to our own building at some point. Moving closer to the long-term home of the yeshiva would make sense.
While that might take a few years, we should have a pretty good plan developed in 2–3 years’ time, once we have some experience under our belts. So our plan was to stay put for the next few years.
Our lease expires next month, so I negotiated a two-year lease renewal with our landlord to stay in the house. The terms were completely agreed upon and I was expecting to get a lease to review when the landlord called a couple of weeks ago to tell me that he “might” need to sell the house.
Long story short, within two weeks, we went from “about to sign a new two-year lease” to “house sold and need to relocate within seven weeks.” That’s right, seven weeks.
To further complicate things, 90%+ of the available housing is already spoken for; rentals and purchases by new olim usually transact in March–May, so that the new families know where they are going to live. At this late date, the pickings are slim.
Our kids are upset at the prospect of moving (and maybe even having to leave Bet Shemesh). Mordechai’s bar mitzvah is coming this year. Making a simcha with all new friends and not having the bar mitzvah year with all his old friends will be very traumatic. The other kids have friends and school and their whole comfort zone, all of which are under threat of being taken away.
Goldie is furious. She cannot believe that having negotiated the renewal, the landlord would blindside us with this with so little time for us to make other arrangements.
Me? I dunno. Am I quite angry at the landlord? Yes. Am I incredibly frustrated for the kids? Yes. Am I panicked about needing to find a home in a very short time? Yes.
Yet we do have a couple of leads. Hopefully, something will pan out. I cannot help but remember that despite the fact that we have struggled mightily, in hindsight, many things worked out for the best, even when we were certain they spelled disaster.
From the war that fortuitously delayed the delivery of our lift until the day after we took possession of the first home we rented (without paying storage charges), to Goldie’s initial illness leading to the discovery and treatment of a more serious one, to any of the many different “coincidences” that have dogged our footsteps since we got here, somehow, in the end, things have worked out. This is, I think, part of the mazal of Eretz Yisrael. Even though we know that everything is always for the best (even when we don’t understand it), in Eretz Yisrael we get the suffering, but often are able to see things working out for the best, even better than we could have hoped for.
Hopefully that will work out this time too. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a gap-year yeshiva opening soon. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at email@example.com.