Big plans for Tzur Hadassah.

Build it, and they will come. In our case, many already did, but I’m sure that attracting more is part of the plan.

Walking through the yishuv this week I noticed the sign declaring what we all thought were just rumors and faraway promises: a major community center in the middle of Tzur Hadassah, servicing the ‘יישובי המזלג’ or the five towns that comprise the Matte Yehuda ‘fork’. That includes Tzur, Matta, Nes Harim, Bar Giyora and Mavo Beitar.

So… let’s break it down. What started being built in February 2011, and has no declared end date yet, are the following…

  1. בית ספר הדסים / Hadassim elementary school: Ok, this one already exists (and got a whole refurbished play area outside it last year) but it’s around this building that the rest will be done. From what I understand, they are also adding middle school to this (I believe it only goes up to sixth grade).
  2. בית ספר ממלכתי דתי / Religious public school: This school year a religious public school was started; it began with kita aleph and bet (first and second grade) and both religious and secular families from the surrounding yishuvim sent their kids. It’s been housed in an unused building in Bar Giyora, but it seems that its permanent residence will in fact be in this new complex. I heard that the original plan was to have a mixed TALI-type school, but because the administration and parental interest of this one has created such an open, mixed atmosphere, they decided it was unnecessary and instead, this ‘dati’ school would serve the purpose. This is the first new building being built in the complex, which is meant to be completed by this coming school year, and you can see in the photo that it’s made significant progress since February:
    The amazing thing about it is that for next year, apparently kita aleph has over 30 kids registered. It will also go up to gimmel (grade 3), of course.
  3. מרכז חוגים / Activity center: What I’m hoping is that kids can go straight from school to next door where they can partake in the expensive chugim (extracurriculars, after-school activities) that we will pay for. As a working mom who isn’t a teacher or part time, I worry a lot about what the bleep my kids will do all afternoon after school lets out.
  4. בית ספר תיכון / High school: This will be a secular high school for local kids to continue after the elementary/middle school. Currently they shlep on buses to Jerusalem or Beit Shemesh.
  5. בריכת שחייה / Swimming pool: This has (literally) been the talk of the town for years. There are a few public pools in the area yishuvim, stretching from five to fifteen minutes away. Some are actually focused on serving Beitar Illit’s charedi population, with separate swimming. Others are fine, but the rates of membership are probably not as good as they could be if we had our own local pool to join. And what better way to build a strong sense of local community than a swimming pool? Not to mention giving kids what to do in the long, school-free summer.
  6. אולם ספורט / Sports center: Goes along with after-school activities, school teams, and hell, who knows? – maybe a gym for the adults.
  7. אולם רב תכליתי / Community center (multi purpose): I assume this is where our tekesim will take place… Community meetings, cultural events, shows, etc.
  8. ספריה ומרכז מוסיקה / Library and music center: This could actually be really great. I hope they do it right. The lack of libraries in Israel makes me terribly sad. I would love to take my kids to a local library every week, just like my mom did with us in New York City.

With everything going on in this area, things are really going to change. It’s going to be a huge win for creating more of a sense of community here, though there’s always a risk to demographics with attempting to attract more people. The pace is good, and these are things most people want anyway. But change is still change.

As they, סכנה! כאן בונים (danger, here they are building).

Tzur Hadassah update: Small town news.

On Shabbat, I met a couple that is considering moving to צור הדסה and found information about it right here. Not much out there about this yishuv, in English or Hebrew, so I’m happy to fill in when needed.

But I realize I haven’t updated properly in a while, and we have some ‘drama’ going on, as well as accomplishments/planned accomplishments brewing.

So here goes, a Tzur Hadassah update:

Secular high school

Ground broke this year on the building of a secular high school; up until now it’s been grades aleph through chet. From what I’ve heard, high school students have begun learning here in temporary situations while the building gets built, presumably over the course of this year.

Religious elementary school

Last year, a dati elementary school was started in the area. The school is not actually located in the yishuv, but in Bar Giyora nearby, where there was a vacancy. It services students from around the area, and is up to kita gimmel at this point (in its second year). From my understanding, it’s not just religious families who send their kids there, but also traditional and secular, who want a Jewish base to their kids’ educations.

Community center TBD

There have been talks and plans for the ground-breaking of a community center, which would include a pool. The location for the building has been chosen (towards the valley, inside the U of the yishuv) and ‘they say’ that will begin in the next couple years.

New construction controversy

Small town drama? Not really, if some governmentals, architects, planners, and realtors get their way. Then it’ll be much-bigger-town drama. And demographic-completely-altered town drama.

I don’t know the nitty-gritty details, so everything I tell is from what I’ve heard and seen in emails to me by the va’ad of Tzur Hadassah.

There are plans to expand the yishuv in ways that would totally alter its character. There are a lot of kablanim hungry to build here; desired location, lots of potential, etc. The local va’ad is trying to stop it, or at least halt it, which I heard they have succeeded in doing by appealing in court.

But I’m not sure the relationship of that information with the following, which seems a lot more imminent:

There are also plans to build a new section to Tzur Hadassah for 1400+ families, which would be located across the main road, next to Mavo Beitar (a quiet, small yishuv behind the Delek gas station). This community, apparently, would be bigger in land area than Jerusalem’s Gilo, filled with apartments, and would cater to – and be offered to – the well-off charedi public. In fact, according to what I read, the only public services offered in the building plans were four synagogues. No parks.

If this happened, there are a lot of downsides spelled out by the local admin here, including: limited to no public transportation (I presume that would change), clogging of the area’s main roads, and severe altering of the character of surrounding communities, which range from pretty much secular to moderately traditional, with a few dati leumis sprinkled about.

That last bit hits a sensitive nerve in Tzur Hadassah; it is joked that Beitar Illit, the ultra-Charedi yishuv next door, over the Green Line, is trying to turn Tzur Hadassah into ‘Giva’a Gimmel’ with all their expanding going on.

Many who hear I live in Tzur Hadassah comment on the same point: Don’t they hate religious people there? I don’t think it’s that they hate religious people necessarily;  I think they want to live free from the influences of that lifestyle, namely Charedi lifestyle, which will cramp their own. They don’t want the character they’ve built to change. They don’t want to be put in a position where they have to start sacrificing for something that doesn’t interest them.

Which I can understand, though I do believe it’s important to know your neighbors and promote tolerance, living among diversity, for the sake of balance and your children’s education.

Which is why I live here, by the way.

I need to be schooled.

Today we volunteered at a ‘shuk kach-ten’ – kind of a giant yard sale where you bring junk and take other people’s junk. It was at the elementary school in Tzur Hadassah.

It was also the first time I have entered an Israeli school while it was in session. Kids running everywhere. Not unlike my own elementary school days… just, the screeching, laughing and taunting were in Hebrew.

I looked around at all these kids and their parents and their teachers… It’s absolutely true that the culture of education – and more importantly, the culture of schools – in Israel is completely different than what a lot of us Anglos grew up with. You could say here it is… without… certain elements we were raised to value.  

After exiting the building quite bewildered, I went up to my husband and posed the following: “What the %#@! were we thinking having a child in Israel? Do you realize we are those immigrant parents? Elementary school was bad enough for me in English… How is my kid going to survive in this with me as a mom?”

Tzur Hadassah update: new council, more mail.

Lots of interest in Tzur Hadassah these days, at least in my crowd. Thought I’d update on how the yishuv is doing since our local election and a new local council has letter-bombed all of us residents with their promises. Here are some of those promises: 

  • Plans to finish a locale for the Tzofim (scouts) and the 60+ forum. 
  • Work with the moetza (local council for the area, Matte Yehuda) to solicit certain funds for direct Tzur Hadassah projects. 
  • Work on a better system for recycling to the benefit of the environment. 
  • Lobby for more independance for Tzur Hadassah from Matte Yehuda regional council. 
  • A new school will be opened next academic year as a joint project with the rest of the moetza. 
  • New security service for the yishuv. 
  • Working with the other small yishuvim in the area (called yishuvay mazleg, fork towns – Mavo Beitar, Matta, Bar Giyora and Nes Harim) on more cultural, educational and community programs.

If they work on the security, the programs and the school I’d be happy, personally. 

A word about the school: I’m not sure if the school they mention in the letter is the same school that  leaders of the miniscule dati leumi community are planning to open next year… But yes, the (itsy bitsy) dati leumi community, HaTzur V’haTzohar, is working on a new dati school to serve this area, beginning with first grade next year. It’s supposed to be dati-style but catering to a masorti-plus audience, principaled by the community rabbi’s wife. If all goes well, they’ll add a new grade every year.

The lizrael update I've been waiting for.

Don’t know about you, but I can speak for myself, my husband, my family, some of my closer friends, and probably some coworkers and ex coworkers when I say that this is the lizrael update I’ve been wanting to share for a long, long time… In fact, I can pinpoint the time. It would be here.

But now I can finally say: I’ve handed in my very last graduate school work. It was actually a couple weeks ago, but it was too good to believe on the spot so I’ve been waiting until it sank in.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no confirmation except my own calculations and last year’s assurance from a department secretary that my student file is ready to be stamped This one’s good to go. I also want to know that my final internship project has passed. As far as I know, I’ve handed everything I can possibly hand in, taken all credits and finals, and paid (or had others pay) all monies to complete my requirements. If this is truly the happy ending, then my official graduation won’t be until the end of this academic year.

But, with a little optimism uncharacteristic of an Israeli student, I will say:

No more teachers, no more strikes.

No more Minhal Studentim hikes.

Some people have already asked me, “What are you going to do now?” And in my head I’m replying, “Think up my next academic feat,” while my mouth brings forth, “Birth a baby and perhaps raise it.”

Chillest fire department ever.

So there we are, my roommate and I, out on the mirpeset for a romantic start-of-the-weekend dinner of shippudim when I look up and see… a fire.

“Hey, that wasn’t there before, was it?”

Indeed, it was not. And it was growing by the second.

It was a fire started in some trees, right outside the school in the center of Tzur Hadassah.

So my husband calls the fire department… and gets a busy signal.

“Maybe everyone else is calling at the same time?”

He keeps trying till he gets an answer.

“B’derech, b’derech.”

We sit back down and watch the fire grow through the trees. Five minutes go by, ten minutes.

“The fire department is right here, in Bar Giyyora… What the hell?”

After fifteen minutes, he calls again.

“I reported a fire by the school in Tzur Hadassah about fifteen minutes ago… where are you?”

“Ahh… They said the fire was outside the school.”

Hmm. I didn’t go to fire school or anything. But I’m pretty sure fire doesn’t just chill where it starts…

“Duh, I think I’ll just plop down right here, conveniently outside the school so I don’t bother anyone.”

Ten minutes later, the firetruck shows up.

Lizrael Update: school keeps on truckin'.

I know it’s been a while since I properly updated with the whole fancy ‘lizrael update’ subject line. And this is likely to be quick, since it concerns school.

Some days I’m soclose to finishing my remaining projects (which these days numbers three) and some days I feel like I will never finish this thing. Fortunately, today was a soclose day. I’ll be done with one paper by the end of the week, starting a new one (ahem… two years over due one) after Shavuot and then I have my big fancy internship project to work on and then write up.

Of course, there is also the official ‘course gishur’ (mediation course) to take, which I still need to sort out dates and details for.

No more classes, no more books… but a lot between me and accomplishing the degree.

An academic lizrael update.

*Yawn*. *Stretch*. It’s a sunny winter Sunday. Today is as good as any to update about the awful university situation in Israel right now.

Basically, I have no idea what is going to happen for the rest of the year because the department heads, university presidents, strikers and government don’t know. Somewhere in this giant, ridiculous, embarrassing strike the idea of education got forgotten.

We, the students, cannot plan our summers, even if some of us (me) have overdue degrees to complete, weddings to attend abroad, family to visit and life to go on.

They are talking about considering next semester (bet) as a semester aleph and the summer as a semester bet to complement it, since there are full-year classes that haven’t started yet (like mine). Then again, my department can’t plan the next steps – including courses and schedules for these semesters – because the professors on strike can’t talk about it or plan. So I can’t start finding a way to somehow finish up before the summer, using only next semester.

Well, there’s the state of academia in the State of Israel… for now.  Unfortunately, this battle isn’t over yet.