Anyway, yesterday, I wrote up a post for another blogger (who shall remain nameless because she annoyed me by agreeing to post my article, after I told her exactly what I would write, and then refusing to post it after I'd spend a few hours writing it) about aliyah to Tzfat, which is something that I'm asked about frequently. And, as mentioned, she decided that "it wouldn't interest her readers." Quote.
We have new English-speakers arriving in Safed almost every month and many of them find me to ask a wide range of questions before they arrive (or afterward).
I'm always excited for them as they take their first steps here. I hope that their lives in Safed will be as happy as mine have been (yes, for all the frustrations of living in a small hick-town, I really like my community and can't think of anywhere that I'd rather live).
So here's the post -- fooey on you, Israeli blog Indian trader.
Aliyah information for Tzfat
English-speakers have been settling in Tzfat since the early years of the State but beginning in the '70s the Anglo Tzfat community began to grow significantly. Today the Anglo community of Tzfat accounts for a significant percentage of the city's population.
People are drawn to Tzfat for a number of reasons. There is a thriving artists' colony in Tzfat which attracts new artists as well as people who are beginning a career as an artist or an artisan. Many people decide to settle in Tzfat because they want to connect with a specific religious community, such as Chabad or Breslev, while others are content to explore other religious options in the city or not identify religiously at all. There are two Carlebach congregations in Tzfat as well as a New Age-type of community and many newcomers search these communities out as well. Finally, Tzfat attracts English-speakers who are interested in living in a small, supportive atmosphere, away from the pressures of big city life.
Aliyah to Tzfat is, in some aspects, easier than aliyah to other localities but in other ways it's harder. Tzfat's location, on the periphery, means that educational services that are often available in the center of the country (such as special classes for native English speaking children and extra tutorial help to assist them in Hebrew studies) are not available. The health care is adequate but a visit to a top Israeli hospital to see an expert involves a trip to Tel Aviv, Haifa or Jerusalem. Employment is another problem for both new arrivals as well as older, veteran residents of the city. Most jobs require a good Hebrew background which new olim haven't always mastered.
However, for many olim and other people who are looking to relocate in Israel, Tzfat offers elements that make living in the city an attractive proposition. Real estate is, compared to the center of the country, relatively inexpensive. There are three main areas of the city -- the Old City/Artists Quarter, where housing is more expensive, the less expensive Cana'an/Darom neighborhoods which were built in the '50s and '60s and the newer "suburban" neighborhoods of Neve Oranim and Ramat Razim/Menachem Begin where a simple 3 or 4 bedroom home costs between $80,000 - $120,000. Public transportation is good so residents can live in any area of Tzfat and easily travel to work or school in another area of the city within half an hour.
The school system in Tzfat offers an educational framework for almost all children. There are two non-religious elementary schools and one large non-religious high school in Tzfat as well as three National Religious elementary schools, a National Religious Talmud Torah and an Amit-affiliated school for the National Religious sector. Different Ultra-Orthodox communities operate their own schools and cheders including a Breslev cheder, Chabad schools, two large Sephardic networks, several Hassidic Yiddish-speaking schools and two Bais Ya'akov schools. Parents of special needs children would have to investigate further since the services that are offered don't fit all needs or levels of special needs children.
With all of the considerations regarding establishing a home in Tzfat, one of the deciding factors for many people is the strong support system that the English speaking community offers to newcomers. In addition to a general atmosphere of friendly assistance, Tzfat's English Library, which is open several days every week, provides a center where people can come and meet old-timers, ask questions, receive advice and assistance and generally get their bearings.
Two online resources, the Tzfatline newsletter (subscribe for free at email@example.com) and the Tzfat Chevre Facebook group enable people to make contacts regarding items that they want to buy or sell, classes and activities in the area, services offered or needed and many other subjects.
An ulpan operates in Tzfat for new olim. It generally starts every autumn (a class will open as soon as 20 people are ready to start). In addition local institutions and individuals coordinate a variety of classes and activities which meet many different interests -- classes on different religious topics, sports activities and art classes as well as classes and activities for children. English-speakers also operate many of the institutions in the city including a number of commercial and non-profits enterprises.
Tzfat isn't suitable for everyone, but for families, couples or singles who are looking for a warm, inviting environment, Tzfat may be the answer.