Articles by Bracha Shugarman

My Journey to Bat Ayin


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What do you get when you mix together chasidut, a desire to work the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael, ahavas Yisrael, and creativity? The answer is Bat Ayin! A friend of mine, who often goes to this small hilltop yishuv in Gush Etzion for Shabbos, had been inviting me to join her for a while. I had many reasons for turning her down time after time. But when I heard that Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin was looking for a madricha for their summer program, I figured it didn’t hurt to apply and check it out – and now that I’m there, the joke is on me!

As I alighted from the bus at the traffic circle on Bat Ayin’s main road and made my way down the hill, a beautiful mountain panorama lay before me, and I felt the clear air entering my lungs. I noticed the variety of homes as I walked. Many families live in caravans (trailers) while others occupy houses of all sizes and types. There are small matchbox-style homes that the owners built themselves and others that are large and multi-level. Some houses are faced with beautiful stone, while others are built from colorfully-painted cement or wood, log-cabin style. Each home is surrounded with a bit of land, and many have well-kept gardens. Each home is unique, attesting to the individuality of the people residing inside.


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Dreams Come True , Journey to Bat Ayin , The Aliyah of the Taylor Family


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Does anyone remember the missionary couple that moved to Strathmore Avenue in the summer of 2000? Ever wonder what happened to them? I discovered the Taylor family living on a hilltop in Gush Etzion, in the yishuv of Bat Ayin. It was in this small settlement inhabited by simple people who contain wellsprings of greatness that Pinchas and Penina, formerly missionaries and now observant Jews, found a place to call home.

Pinchas and Penina graciously agree to share their fascinating personal story in order to inspire and strengthen others. They welcome me warmly, and I ask them how their story begins. Although most stories have a beginning, they respond, their own is elusive for the simple reason that their search for truth is beyond the scope of words and time.


Read More:Dreams Come True , Journey to Bat Ayin , The Aliyah of the Taylor Family

Dreams Come True, Journey to Nof Tzion: The Aliyah of the Eilberg Family


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  I am off to meet Pnina Eilberg, resident of Nof Tzion, a neighborhood of just 85 families living on two streets. It came as a surprise to me to learn that such a place exists within the boundaries of Yerushalayim. Located in the Kidron Valley above Ir David, it is surrounded by Arab villages. Its name, though, meaning Zion View, is not surprising. As Pnina graciously welcomes me into her apartment, I take in the gorgeous panorama of Har Habayit and Har Hazeitim from her giant living room window. And as Pnina explains the background of her family’s aliyah journey and talks about life in this tiny enclave, I begin to appreciate the importance of the neighborhood and the strength of its residents.


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Dreams Come True, Journey to Tzfat: The Aliyah of the Jacobs Family


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As the bus winds its way north through green valleys and steep mountain roads, the beauty of the Galil, Galilee, unfolds before my eyes. Onward we climb towards mystical Tzfat, the highest city in all of Eretz Yisrael and one of the four “holy cities” of the Land. Alighting at the central bus station, I am struck by the beauty of Tzfat and behold the stunningly lush landscape of its surroundings. Only a short distance away are the soothing blue waters of the Kinneret, visible from my lookout, as well as the camel-hump form of the mountain upon which Meron lies, just across the wadi (valley) from Tzfat. No wonder tourists are enraptured! How pleasant it is to mill about the quiet streets this slow-paced city that has no traffic lights. Many Israelis, including chashuve Torah personalities, vacation in Tzfat, whose climate, because of its altitude, is mild in the summer, albeit cold and snowy in the winter.


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Dreams Come True : Journey to Rechavia : The Aliyah of the Even-Israel Family


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When I think of Rechavia, my mind conjures up an upscale neighborhood in the heart of Yerushalayim with tree-lined streets, green parks, and beautiful, often palatial, buildings surrounded by neat gardens. Although but a few minutes walk to shops, hotels, and restaurants on Keren Kayemet Street, Rechavia is almost purely residential, with a mixture of both secular and religious Israelis as well as chutznikim (immigrants) interspersed throughout the neighborhood. Meni and Liza Even-Israel and their four children are one of the many families living in Rechavia, and Liza graciously agrees to share her story of how they landed there.

Liza Ferszt Even-Israel was born and raised in Los Angeles until age eleven, when her parents decided to move to Israel. Intending to make their move open ended, they did not sell their house or their business immediately. A few years later that they actually made aliyah. Since they had come in 1986, before the first intifada, Liza has happy memories of life in Israel.


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Dreams Come True: Journey to Nachlaot: The Aliyah of the Deutsch Family


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Meandering the quaint, winding alleyways of Nachlaot, I feel transported to an earlier era. This intriguing enclave in central Jerusalem is sandwiched between the busy thoroughfare of Rechov Yaffo, Machane Yehuda shuk, the quieter residential neighborhood of Sha’arei Chesed, and the expansive, grassy Sacher Park. Nachlaot’s various neighborhoods date back to the late 1870s, when overcrowding in the Old City caused a notable portion of its population to relocate. Many artists as well as colorful residents of all types and stripes live here create a mystique and vibe of diversity and inclusion. My curiosity is piqued. I want to know more about Nachlaot and meet its residents.

I head toward the home of Tzvi and Shaindel Deutsch and chat with Shaindel about her aliyah journey over a cup of tea. Shaindel Siskind Deutsch was born and raised in Baltimore until age 12, when she relocated to Israel with her parents and two brothers. The year was 2001, and Shaindel’s parents, Mark and Paula Siskind, had been contemplating aliyah for several years before deciding on the right time to make a go for it. The Siskind children did not make official aliyah together with their parents, so that they would be able to get their own aliyah benefits later on in life if they chose to remain in Israel.


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