Kim Salzman, who directs the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Israel and Overseas funding programs, moved to Pittsburgh’s Parternership2Gether region—the city of Karmiel and the surrounding Misgav region—this summer. Located in Israel’s central Galilee, Karmiel/Misgav has been Pittsburgh’s “sister city” region since 1995. Coordinated locally by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and supported by the Federation’s Community Campaign, Partnership2Gether promotes people-to-people relationships through cultural, social, medical, educational and economic programs.
Kim Salzman writes:
Nearly one month ago, I got on an airplane with my husband, my three children and our two dogs, and flew across the Atlantic Ocean to return home to Israel. Our new home is located on a yishuv kehilati (community village) called Manof, which is located in the Misgav Regional Council. While Manof is just one of 35 different villages that make up Misgav, the way of life on Manof is representative of most other villages in Misgav, so I am going to share my personal experiences thus far on Manof with the hope that they will give the Pittsburgh Jewish community more of an insight into what day-to-day life is like in Pittsburgh’s Partnership2Gether region.
The Beauty and the Climate
Manof is located on Mount Shchenya, a mountain that overlooks the mountains of the Galilee on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other. Our house’s backyard faces towards the sea, which means that every evening we are fortunate enough to watch majestic sunsets over the sea from the comfort of our own home. Even in the hottest months of the year, the lush landscape here provides shade and the altitude a light breeze which cools us off. When the rest of the country is suffering from unbearable heat, this is something not at all to be taken for granted.
Manof is a community village with approximately 200 families. It was founded in the 1980s by a group of South African Jews as part of a government plan to establish Jewish villages in the Galilee. Manof is uniquely communal, and its admissions committee accepts families into the village if and only if they are committed to living in a genuine community—not just living within the confines of their home.
Hours after arriving to our new home on Manof, we received our first visitors – and our first cake. And then we had more visitors. And of course more cake. And then the children started knocking on our door inviting my children to come over and play. Before I knew it, my children were walking over to their friends’ houses and disappearing for hours at a time.
Here, there’s no need to schedule a playdate a week in advance or to drive long distances. In our short time here, I have witnessed the incredible freedom, spontaneity and independence that the village life fosters for my children. My twins in second grade walk to their school bus by themselves. And soon, they will pick up my three-year-old daughter from pre-school and walk her home – by themselves. And no one here will bat an eye when they do so.
This week, my twins will participate in something called the Machanon, an overnight camping experience for all elementary school students who live on Manof. For one night, they will sleep in a tent with other children in their grade, with minimal supervision from parents. This experience is intended to prepare them for the end of the year Tiyul Manof (Manof Trip), a two-day hiking trip for all school-age children from Manof designed to connect them to nature and the land, and to help the grade become more cohesive. The Machanon takes place in a little more than a week from now, and all the parents volunteer to make it possible. Remarkably, while one may expect that such an endeavor would require months of planning, the first and only planning meeting for the Machanon took place nine days before it will actually happen.
Karmiel and Misgav are in the periphery of Israel, and that comes with a cost. The closest major grocery store is 25 minutes away. Cell phone reception is inconsistent and literally changes with the winds. The roads cut through the mountains of the Galilee and are pitch black at night, making driving after sunset a dangerous endeavor. The conveniences of America, where you can order almost anything with the click of a button on Amazon Prime, simply don’t exist here. All of this means that Manof residents do almost all of our grocery shopping online and that, when we do make the trip to a shopping center, we make sure to get everything done all at once in order to avoid having to make another trip the next day.
In Pittsburgh, everything was close by, and everything was convenient. While we have given up on many of the conveniences we once had, I believe that life in the periphery of Israel – or at least in my little bubble in Misgav – is simpler, more down to earth and ultimately the lifestyle we have chosen for our family.
In Hebrew, Israelis refer to Israeli-Arabs as our bnei dodim (cousins). This is of course because both Arabs and Jews are children of Abraham. In my short time living on Manof, I have had more interactions with our “cousins” than I ever had when I lived in the center of the country. Both the doctor from the Karmiel-based urgent clinic who diagnosed my son with pneumonia and the pharmacist who prepared his antibiotics were bnei dodim. The closest place to get any shopping done is an Arab village named Kowkob, and we find ourselves frequenting stores owned by our “cousins” there several times a week.
All of these encounters have been positive and have helped to break down stereotypes and misconceptions that we all, myself included, hold. At the same time, the proximity to Israeli Arabs highlights the complexity of shared society that only Israelis who live it on a daily basis can understand. The neighboring Arab village has parties every single night until midnight, and the loud music makes it difficult to sleep. Every night, our “cousins” come to the tayelet, a promenade on Mount Shchenya, and leave a tremendous amount of litter there despite the trash cans strategically placed throughout. Fortunately, a committed resident of Manof goes for a daily walk on the promenade with a trash bag and collects all the litter disposed the night before, but it’s unfortunate that he needs to do so in the first place. In many ways, the vision of a shared society where Arabs and Jews live side by side is playing out before me in this part of the Galilee. But it is tremendously complex, and this complexity cannot be overlooked.
This motzei Shabbat, Manof is holding an event celebrating all the babies born in the past year and welcoming all new families such as ours. What a fitting way to begin a new year, and what a privilege it is to be able to live in a place such as Manof that prides itself on being a genuine community! Here you will find natural beauty, an ideological commitment to community life, and the complex reality of shared society. Stay tuned for next month’s update from Karmiel and Misgav. Shana tova u’metukah! A happy and sweet New Year!