I wrote the title and accidentally posted that as my blog. But that pretty well sums it up. Everything else is just details.
When we came on a pilot trip a year and a half ago, we had 2 questions to answer. Do we (by we, I mean Shauli) actually want to make Aliyah and where do we want to live. The first question is difficult but at the same time simple. It's a yes or a no. The path of our lives depends on this decision but there is no grey area - we make Aliyah or we don't. Lucky for us, the answer was Yes.
Question 2 was actually harder. There were SOOOO many options. SOOOOO many places to live and how in the world were we supposed to decide where to move based on spending a couple hours somewhere - with someone who does like living there. That was really intimidating to me.
I think we had a list of about 20 cities to check out. We made it to about 5.
Maalot - Pros = FAMILY, beautiful, not too big/small, big houses. CONS = few Americans, too FAR from everything/everyone.
Modiin - Pros = FAMILY........ Americans (for Shauli) Cons = Affordable renting/not affordable buying, Way too many Americans (for Natalie), too big of a city, bland. Or in the words of one of the residents of Modiin a "Concrete Legoland".
Tel Mund - Our dream city (based on what we read in the Bayit Neeman B'Yisrael book). The people who showed us around had a GORGEOUS 7 bedroom MANSION (of course, they just sold their house in the 5 towns, etc etc). We asked if there were any younger couples, with not so much money...basically the answer was no.
Pardes Hana-Karkur - not sure how we ended up at this place but it was a strange little town. Not for us....
Rechovot/Kfar Saba/Ramat Gan(?) - Drove through and decided on the spot they were too big for us. We didn't want a real city with real city problems like traffic and parking and noise.
Ariel - "Come to Ariel lalalalalala" Sorry, that's the ringer for the people who work in Ariel (like Reuven and Milka and used to be Avi). If you've called them, you know what I mean and you are singing it now too.
Ariel kind of snuck onto our radar. We had our pilot trip set with our list of 20 cities and right before we went on our pilot trip we met with someone from NBN who talked with us about cities and said that maybe we should check it out. So we did.
We spoke to the Aliyah coordinator for about an hour about it. Then we came to visit. Then we came back for Shabbat. And we loved it! From what we could tell, the community was very welcoming, it was pretty, it had everything you need for your day to day living but without the probs of a large city, it was affordable. It was also the first city we went to where people laid the cards on the table. They told us about Ariel (pros and cons) and it was like "This is our city. Take it or leave it. If it's for you, GREAT, we can't wait to welcome you with open arms. If it's not, ok". I didn't feel like they were trying to "sell it". Maybe because it doesn't need to be sold. If this is the type of place you are looking for, it sells itself. And if you aren't interested and are looking at places like Modiin, Maaleh Adumim, or Ramat Beit Shemesh - then this city probably is not for you.
At the time of our pilot trip, there were not a lot of Americans. But there was a lot of enthusiasm about bringing Americans. From the mayor to the people in the community - their goal is getting Olim to Ariel. And they will do whatever they can to help accomplish that.
So we became some of the pioneers of Ariel. The first batch came last summer (that was us and some others) and a few more trickled in through the year and another batch are coming this summer. And it's wonderful. Every person who makes Aliyah to Ariel (or who moves here from within Israel) makes a difference here. That is one of the best things about this community - you make a difference. You can get more involved or less involved but you are a part of Something and you matter. You don't get lost in the crowd.
And for Olim Hadashim, who are making this HUGE, somewhat terrifying move - we are here for you. The Israeli community is here for you. And us "veteran" Olim are here for you. Reuven (the Aliyah coordinator) is here for you, and the real veteran Anglos are here for you. From setting up a bank account and health insurance, to grocery shopping, to buying school supplies. There is someone who will hold your hand every step of the way - until you find your footing and can do it yourself. And then you will take the next Olah's hand and help them.....
That was really important to me. Because Aliyah is scary. It's a dream come true but it's not easy. And the fact that I had people there for me to answer both the big questions and the small was phenomenal. And I hope I can be there for the newbies like others were here for us.
One more thing that really sold it for me. Because this is something new for Ariel and the Anglo community is just starting out - the possibilities are endless. If you want something to happen here - step up to the plate and bring it. Leah wanted to have Shiurim in English, she now gives a weekly parsha class AND a weekly Pirkei Avot class. And people even come from Tapuach for it! Jodi wanted an English story hour and once a week, we get together at someone's house with the kids and she reads a story and does an activity with them. I wanted a weekly basketball game, and I started a weekly basketball game. And people come from Har Bracha, Itamar, and soon from Yakir for it! Yael wants to make an English Resource Center for the Shomron and she is working on that. We can help shape and mold this community the way that we want it to be.
I look forward to looking back :) 20 years from now and seeing how far we have come.
I am not going to say everyone should come to Ariel. Because they shouldn't. Not everyone would like it here (even if I can't understand why). But I do know there are people out there who are looking for something just like Ariel - and those are the people we want to find. This was actually the point of my blog. Yes, I had a point - not just to sing the praises of Ariel.
How can we get the word out? Where do people look when they are looking for a city to settle in? The NBN group seems to be mostly people who already made Aliyah or people who have been accepted to NBN - but I feel at that point, a lot already know where they are going.
For those of you who made Aliyah/are making Aliyah - where did you go to check out cities? Where should I post info about Ariel and what sort of things do people want to know about?
Thanks for your help and please come visit us "Settlers" sometime......