Tzur Hadassah: The Q&A breakdown (part 2)

Continuing from the last post, here is an email I wrote after a couple weeks of living here. It’s kind of funny how much more I know now… Which makes me wonder if I had thought I did enough research before moving here… But then again, we moved here on pure recommendation from friends. Here you go:

So, we just moved here 2.5 weeks ago… We knew a few couples before we moved, and have met people at the Ashkenaz shul the last two shabbats… It’s a very small start up shul (we like it like that) but the people are friendly and very enthusiastic to have new members. Know that the community at large is actually secular middle class. There is a community of traditional/observant Mizrachis, too, with Sephardi shuls.

Property is still fairly cheap for a suburban yishuv outside of Jerusalem… But it is getting hotter by the year it seems.

There are two gans and a school for up till high schoolers, I think. Lots of small parks sprinkled around. There is a small horse farm including zoo-type atmosphere with different animals, nice for a Shabbat walk. It’s a gorgeous area. There are national parks and trails all around this general area. It’s very very peaceful and quiet, and I’ve seen older kids playing ball outside my building (without many cars passing to disturb them).

Most people here seem to be married with young kids… Our neighbors are nice. Most people here are Hebrew speakers.

There is talk of bringing a supermarket here, in another year. For now there is a large makolet. People pretty much work in Bet Shemesh or Jerusalem and shop there for most things. There is also Beitar 5 minutes away.

Apparently a mikva is built, but there was a problem in the last stages of building and the rabbi is working it out.

There are buses to Jerusalem, but they are sparse… It seems everyone has a car.

There is also a great medical center (this is what people have told me, I haven’t needed to go yet) that takes all kupot and they do blood tests and more, which is handy to have in your neighborhood.

Tzur Hadassah: The Q&A breakdown.

I suppose there isn’t much info out there on the webs about Tzur Hadassah, because every once in a while I’ll get an email from someone asking about moving there. I’m more than happy to share my responses so that everyone can benefit. If you have any other questions, leave a comment.

Here’s my latest Tzur Hadassah information guide:


Tzur Hadassah is the Green Line… It’s within the 1967 borders, so it is technically Israel, but one side of it faces the West Bank directly. Wadi Fukeen is in that direction, in the valley between Tzur and Beitar (Beitar and the Wadi are outside the Green Line).

Past Tzur Hadassah (within Israeli borders) are Nes Harim, Bar Giyora, Mavo Beitar and past the forest, Beit Shemesh. Going the other way – through the machsom – you pass Beitar, Hussan, and then turn left towards the tunnels with Gush Etzion on your right.

The bus situation in Tzur is poor; there are a handful of buses in and out but it’s not even on the hour or anything. Most, if not all, people here have cars. It’s a 15-20 minute drive to Jerusalem by car through the tunnels. People do hitch hike from within.

Tzur Hadassah is mainly secular, with a Masorti – Mizrachi presence, a Progressive-Reform population, two or three Sephardi shuls and one very small – but intimate! – Ashkenaz minyan (which is where we go). If you are looking for diversity and respectful peace between religious and secular people, as well as a sense of pluralism, this is a great place to be.

There are Anglo families here, religious, traditional and secular… In our shul, for instance, there are a handful of Anglo-mixed couples and French-mixed couples and mainly Israeli of course. This is not really an English-speaking place; I mean, the Anglos speak to each other in English but in groups it is accepted and encouraged to speak in Hebrew. The kids range from baby to teenager, although most kids are probably between toddler and elementary school.

Rent – I don’t know ranges of prices so well, but I’d say you could pay around 2500 – 3000 NIS a month for a 3 bedroom apartment. There are also nice houses for rent. Currently they are building a new complex of duplexes, and they are pretty much all bought, and when they are done, there will be a mass exodus from apartments and houses for rent in the rest of the community. They speculate that will be sometime in the summer; I’d think it would be later rather than sooner.

Other information:

  • Currently there are about 1,000 families or so, and there is talk of whether to expand or stay at this size. The debate is: stay small and cozy, with less public services, or grow bigger and get more services.
  • There is a mini market that is actually impressive, although I’d suggest shopping in Beit Shemesh (15 minutes away) Beitar (5 minutes away) or Jerusalem for the bulk of your needs.
  • There are three gans: a secular, a Reform and a dati.
  • There is a school up to high school level, and it is also secular. There is talk of building a religious school… But who knows when that will be. Most people seem to get their kids to school in Jerusalem.
  • There is an excellent mirpa’a (clinic) that is privately operated but accepts all kupot.
  • There is a basket ball court, soccer pitch, a lot of parks and space to play. In the area outside the yishuv, there are tons of trails and national parks.

Don’t know what your other questions are, but feel free to ask. All in all, Tzur Hadassah is a cozy place, great for your mental health, quiet and peaceful with a city nearby for jobs and shopping and cultural activity, parks and nature all around us, really sweet, non-jaded people. It almost makes me not want to talk about it too highly, lest it ends up growing too big…

Fun with pretzels!

I love this:

Fun with pretzels, Israeli style!

The generic Supersol brand wants you to know all about the awesome fun you can have with pretzel rings. It explains that “pretzel rings are the most fun way to eat from your hands!”

“Do you want an idea of how to truly enjoy pretzel rings? Please: put on the rings (and you can put them on your friends) and nibble them straight from your fingers (you can also do that from your friends’ fingers).”

Raunchy! And I love the little diagram that goes with it. Love it.

Welcome home, endangered American Jew.

Here’s the ‘welcome home’ I got while waiting at a bus stop:

Danger to American Jews? Fo real?

Hmm. I’m pretty sure it’s not as crazy as they make it sound, but who am i to judge? I’m not living in the wild jungle of dangerousness that is America.*

* Ok, ok. I’m being harsh. There is truth to moving to Israel for identity-security from the States. But this note is also harsh. And just funny to me, that it’s so American in its hunger for melodrama.

How I do what I do: the whole roller coaster story.

Since my self-mutilation on a roller coaster story formed, I’ve been making a lot of people laugh with it, and who am I to stop people from laughing? I’m reposting the tale for all of eternity:

This has to be my second most loserish thing I’ve ever done.

So last night I met up with two friends at Coney Island. They had never ridden the Cyclone, so we decided to take it out for a spin. Don’t know if you are familiar, but it’s the infamous 80+ year old wooden rickety roller coaster. I haven’t been on a roller coaster in years, let alone the Cyclone, and totally forgot that roller coasters move really fast. After the first fall, my glasses flew off and I freaked and managed to grab them, at the expense of losing my positioning. When I grabbed for them, we were going for the second dip (I think, who knows) and ended up punching myself in the face. My nose, to be exact. I could smell (and possibly taste?) my blood and thought, well I’ll have to deal with that later. Meanwhile, I was stuck in a terrible position for the rest of the ride and couldn’t steady myself. When we finally got off, I realized a few things:

1. There was blood splattered across my shirt.
2. I had somewhere along the way banged my head against the bar and had a bump forming, not to mention my little non-Jewish nose was becoming increasingly Jewish.
3. My neck and back were completely in pain, only to get worse by the hour (making the drive home interesting and making last night painfully sleepless and making packing my bags today painfully… obvious).
4. I am not as young as I feel.
5. An octogenarian had chewed me up and spit me out.

Sigh. The comfort is that I wasn’t an awkward 14-year-old on a first date. It could be a comfort, too, that I can pack a pretty mean punch when suspended in a moving vehicle going downward. And of course, I don’t usually mind making other people laugh at my own expense.

Things I can't believe when I return to the States.

It was my longest stretch between my last visit to the States, and I have compiled a quick list of things I’m mildly shocked to notice during the past two weeks I’ve been in New York:

1. Capitalism.

Oh, how I have forgotten this. My concept of capitalism has been dumbed down to long Supersol lines on erev Shabbat. The day I arrived in JFK, I had trouble remembering how to say the word for the big advertising message thingies on the highway… ah, right, billboards.

2. Water usage.

Not gonna lie: I get freaked out here how high the water comes up in the toilet before, even before flushing.

3. Tasteless produce.

My chicken soup is drastically different (and needs drastic amounts of salt) in this sad state. It’s also unfortunate how expensive it is to buy fruits and vegetables. The chicken may have been cheaper.

4. ‘curity.

I suppose there are different types of security. House security, car security, building security, financial security, emotional security… But none of the American types of security are Israeli security. It gets me every time.

5. Loneliness.

In my years as a resident New Yorker, I’ve felt hurried, hasty and rushed through crowds in New York City, but never lonely, not until now. It’s the first time I’ve felt alone in my city of bajillions of people.

What exactly is a 'happy' Memorial Day?

Can a Memorial Day be happy? Isn’t the essence of the concept to reflect, to introspect, to national-spect? I find that with national-specting comes a bit of shame, a dash of pride and a whole lotta tears either way.

To some, Israeli and American Memorial Days might be categorized as fraternal twins, if related at all. I would categorize them as not even making it to drastically different. They are more like completely separate concepts. And the primary reasons make sense:

1. Size of the country: Israel has about six million or so remembering while the United States has… a lot more people not remembering.

2. Content: Whatever Israelis are remembering, it happened within the century and most likely less than 60 years ago. Every non-charedi community has some sort of tekes happening, while most people would at least acknowledge the sirens that go off in the evening and morning. In the States, people are not as likely to give the last century much of a thought, nevermind the country’s humble – and bloody – beginnings.

3. People personality: Israelis and Americans have completely different national personalities. In the face of diversity, most Israelis somehow wind up identifying with the national loss. Israelis are a bunch of people plucked from a rainbow, huddled together in the corner of the room. Americans have no one face of diversity; what keeps them different keeps them apart.

4. Process: There is no process for most Americans, who probably don’t know any soldiers past or present anyway. I heard on the radio – maybe it was NPR even – announcements regarding the efforts the President was making today, and how he asked all Americans to pause at 3pm in their respective time zones. It’s hard to feel the silence when a couple states over your neighbors are still munching on BBQ. Israelis have an incredible, real, raw process that actually goes on for most of the year. The difference in the day is that there is a harmony of grown men’s tears.

Well, here I am in the United States for Memorial Day, a three-day weekend that has been relatively quiet. I myself am one of those removed Americans… waiting for a process to draw my tears.

A lesson from newborns and Coney Island.

Today was the most bizarre day I’ve experienced in a really long time. The same day consisted of me holding the newborn boy of a girl I consider a cousin as well as punching myself in the face on Coney Island’s Cyclone.

This pseudo cousin gave birth to her first child deep into Saturday night. This afternoon I was on the Southern State to see and hold the closest thing I have to a blood nephew (I say that with all due respect to my nephews-in-law).

This was the first newborn in my adult life that I actually cared about before meeting it. I walked in the room to find my pseudo family wiped out with exhaustion, and my friend handed me the baby boy, a tiny package of 6 pounds and some ounces. He was absolutely beautiful, and if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, well, I had a lot to behold. New(!) mother also looked amazing; as her sister – the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister – told me about the birth, I couldn’t stop being so utterly proud of this little girl I used to play mattress-stairs with.

This experience just totally winded me; I didn’t know what to expect but felt so comfortable with it each second I was steeped in it. Family; new members of family. I’ve never witnessed it – or been a part of it to that degree – firsthand.

After I tore myself away from the family, I headed towards Coney Island to meet two college friends of mine. We strolled along the boardwalk and then figured, we’re already here, why not take a spin on the Cyclone? The Cyclone is a rickety decades-old roller coaster that is a rite of passage for New Yorkers born and bred. I’ve ridden the Cyclone; my father has ridden the Cyclone, my father’s father… that’s the kind of legend it is. It stands (and dips and dives) for the youth of the Brooklyn-bred.

The experience was everything the baby-beholding was not. Adrenaline pumping as we climbed into the car, profanities flying as we ricketed up the first curve. Somewhere around the second drop, my glasses came off. I realized it and quickly grabbed for them, getting myself stuck in a position of holding the seat bar instead of sitting back. Somewhere in that mess, I managed to punch myself in the nose, smell my own blood, hit my head and severely strain my neck. When the ride ended, I found myself speckled in red with my nose pulling a Pinocchio.

How had I gotten from holding a one-day old baby and being so moved I could barely talk, to icing my nose and not being able to move my head sideways? Or maybe the question should be reversed – when does this youth ride come to an end? When do you realize you’re pathetic for trying?

I feel young, and I know from family history I will feel young for a long time to come. But this is a different kind of young – it’s a youth based on a different kind of curiosity, not the kind pumped by adrenaline and profanities. This youth is not as bold, not as daring, not as stupid, but it is a journey of satisfying many of the questions I’ve held and learning the new questions to be asking. This youthfulness might not be any smarter than the past one, but it’s definitely not stupider.

Or maybe I have it all wrong; maybe I’ve been out of New York for too long and missed the message altogether. Maybe New York was asking me if I really feel up to being here. Maybe she has something to say for those of us who leave her.

Maybe Brooklyn was giving me a beating, showing me what it really means to come back.