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Gush Etzion - גוש עציון

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CONTENTS:

 

Gush Etzion Absorption Coordinator back to top^
Hagit Ginat:  02-993-9970 or   hagit@gush-etzion.org.il
It is hard to imagine a more hospitable place for religious olim than Gush Etzion. In the past several years, the Gush Etzion Regional Council has absorbed groups of Peruvian and French olim, and scores of immigrant families from North America and other places. In addition, they hired an absorption coordinator responsible for settling olim in the Gush Etzion yishuvim. The Council provides advice on living options, discusses educational options, assists in finding housing, and actually prepares the immigrants’ new home in advance of their arrival.

Commerce and Health Services back to top^
The closest commercial center to Gush Etzion is Efrat, which is just minutes away from any of the yishuvim in the western Gush. In Efrat, you can find several supermarkets, a book store, dry cleaner, hardware store, and restaurants. In addition, three of the major kupot holim have clinics in Efrat, while one, Meuhedet has a clinic both in Efrat and Alon Shvut. There is an optical clinic in Efrat, and dentists located in Efrat, Alon Shvut and Neve Daniel. The only bank between Jerusalem and Hevron (Mizrachi) is located in Alon Shvut.

Transportation back to top^
Most yishuvim in Gush Etzion are accessible through public and private transportation. (See individual yishuv profiles for specific information.) Thanks to a new direct road connecting Gush Etzion with Jerusalem, most of the Gush is only a 20 minute drive from the center of Jerusalem. It is only 15 minutes from the industrial/commercial district of Talpiot. By car, it takes about 25 minutes to get to Beit Shemesh, and 1 ½ hours to arrive in Tel Aviv.

It is difficult for a family to live in one of the Gush Etzion yishuvim without at least one car – not impossible, but difficult. While it is generally easy to take public transportation to Jerusalem, it is far more difficult to travel anywhere within Gush Etzion. In addition, shlepping a large (or even small) family on a bus to Jerusalem can be both physically taxing and expensive.

Community Services and Institutions back to top^
All residents of Gush Etzion are entitled to use the local community center. The regional council even offers a discount to olim. The community center, which is located in Alon Shvut near the regional elementary school, has classes and various activities for both children and adults. In addition, there is a swimming pool with separate hours for men and women.

Residents of the various communities in Gush Etzion come together to participate in a number of region-wide programs. For example, beginning in 2001, the women of Gush Etzion and Efrat have written, produced, and performed an outstanding musical production that they have taken on the road to female audiences throughout the country. In addition, there is also a Women’s Beit Midrash, which offers a wide variety of outstanding classes.

Education back to top^
Gush Etzion residents are very serious about the education of their children. A Yediot Ahronot (newspaper) study of public education funding found that the Gush Etzion Regional Council contributed a greater amount of money toward the education of each child than any other region or city in Israel.

While each of the Gush Etzion communities has its own ganim, the elementary and high schools are shared by all of the Gush. A few children in Gush Etzion attend school in Efrat, and the reader should refer to the Efrat profile for information on these schools, but this is the exception and most attend the outstanding institutions of Gush Etzion.

Gush Etzion’s reg24.01.08 institution, located in two well-furnished modern buildings. Grades 1-3 are coed and housed in one building, while boys and girls in grades 4-6 are taught in separate classes, housed in another building. Both schools offer a wide range of programs. Although the regional elementary school is technically a standard government religious school, because of the population of Gush Etzion, the school has a Torani focus.

Another option in Gush Etzion is Reishit, a young, dynamic Torani school that just recently became a regional elementary school. Reishit is a “hands-on” school that takes advantage of its location on Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim. The children help care for animals and are involved in gardening. Each of these activities is seen as an opportunity to instill Torah values and concepts. The school has a unique program for kids with special needs, which both integrates them into the mainstream classroom and provides them with individual attention.

For high school, many of the boys go to one of the schools in Efrat (see Efrat profile for details), or Mekor Hayyim Yeshiva, located on Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. A fair number also travel to Jerusalem or board at a school elsewhere in the country.

Like its founder, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Mekor Hayyim is both intensely spiritual and intellectually rigorous. It is among the most selective high schools in the country and only accepts a small percentage of its applicants. Students at Mekor Hayyim tend to be highly motivated and spend a tremendous amount of their time on religious studies. In comparison to the other yeshiva high schools in the Gush, Mekor Hayyim focuses less on secular studies.

Neve Chana is a rigorous Torani school, located in an impressive modern facility in Alon Shvut. For more information, see http://www.ohrtorahstone.org.il/ots_schools/neveh_channah.htm

Shavei Rachel, the other Ohr Torah Stone girl’s high school in Gush Etzion is located on Neve Daniel. While also providing a comprehensive religious and secular education, Shavei Rachel specializes in integrating arts and communications. More details on Shavei Rachel, including contact information, is available at http://www.ohrtorahstone.org.il/ots_schools/shavei_rachel.htm.

Ulpenat Rosh Tzurim, located on Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim, is a newer, serious Torani school that attracts primarily girls from the Gush and Efrat.

The Communities back to top^
Gush Etzion is a coalition of 14 different communities, spread across the Judean Hills between Jerusalem and Hevron. The communities differ in subtle and not-so subtle ways. Most are Religious Zionist yishuvim, but there are also kibbutzim, and one religious/secular mixed yishuv. The majority of the yishuvim are Religious-Zionist in orientation, but there are also a couple that are Haredi or secular. The council includes the following communities: Kibbutzim: Kfar Etzion, Rosh Tzurim, and Migdal Oz; Yishuvim: Har Gilo, Alon Shvut, Elazar, Tekoa, Maaleh Amos, Neve Daniel, Nokdim, Meizad, Karmei Tzur, Keidar, Bat Ayin. Some basic information about most of these communities, in addition to information about the region, can be found at http://www.gush-etzion.org.il. The sketches below focus on only a few of the communities that are most involved in absorbing olim and have been most attractive to North American immigrants in recent years.


Alon Shvut back to top^

Type of Community and size: Yishuv with 800 families, approximately 3000 residents
Religious life: Religious-Zionist; Ashkenazi, Sefaradi, and Yemenite synagogues; mikve; hesder yeshiva; kollel; learning opportunities for women
Age range: Wide range, from newly married to grandparents; some single men connected with yeshiva
Number of English-speaking olim: 30%, mainly from North America
Accessibility to places of employment: Adequate; numerous buses between Alon Shvut and Jerusalem
Commercial establishments: mini-market, bank, near Efrat
Climate: Mountain. Summer days are hot and dry. Winters are cold and snow does occasionally fall
Contacts: Rocky (Rachel) Brody, 02-9931692, grbrody@bezeqint.net
Rachel Berger, 02-9938276, Rachelbe@netvision.net.il
Housing availability: very few homes available for purchase; some rentals available.

Alon Shvut is divided into older and newer neighborhoods. One should not think that “older” is synonymous with run-down. In this case, it clearly is not. The older neighborhood is elegant, quaint, lush in vegetation, and diverse in the variety of living options. In the early 1990s, Alon Shvut faced a difficult dilemma. It was relatively small and intimate, with a warm, Torani environment. Families were begging to move in, yet there was no available housing. While some in Alon Shvut wanted to limit the size of the yishuv in order to preserve its character, others did not agree on principle with refusing entry to people who really wanted to live there. In the end, the yishuv voted to build the new neighborhood, effectively doubling the size of the community. And it does not seem that the community has in any way suffered because of it. The new neighborhood has beautiful homes, a quality population, a close community feeling, and young trees that will provide lovely foliage once they mature.

Location and Accessibility back to top^
Alon Shvut is located in the southwestern region of Gush Etzion. The yishuv is the seat of the regional council, the location of the regional elementary school, the community center and pool, and the Neve Chana girls’ high school. In addition to Yeshivat Har Etzion and its affiliate Hertzog Teacher’s Seminary, Alon Shvut is also home to the Tzomet Institute for the study of Jewish law and science. The entrance to the old neighborhood of Alon Shvut is adjacent to Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim, and just up the road from Kibbutz Kfar Etzion and Yishuv Bat Ayin. The gate for the new neighborhood is about ½ km. from the Gush Junction; and the gate to the old neighborhood is a kilometer further down the road. Although the yishuv does have these two entrances, it is easy to walk within the yishuv from one neighborhood to the other.

Alon Shvut is accessible through public transportation, but since it is located off the main Gush Etzion road, it is not quite as accessible as some other communities in the area. Both the 161 and the 164 buses enter directly into the yishuv. There is no bus service that transports residents from Alon Shvut to elsewhere in the Gush and Efrat. Many of the yishuv residents work in Gush Etzion, at one of the educational institutions or local businesses. However, a fair number commute to Jerusalem, which is only a ½ hour bus ride, or to Tel Aviv or other locations in the center of the country.

Commerce and Services back to top^
Alon Shvut has several essential services available on the yishuv. Gush Etzion’s only bank is located in the commercial center of the old neighborhood, along with a well-stocked makolet and library. There is a kupat holim (Meuchedet) clinic in the new section, and a Clalit clinic in the old neighborhood. For most other needs, Efrat is only 5 minutes away.

Residents and Community back to top^
The residents of Alon Shvut are all Religious-Zionists, most with strong Jewish and secular educations. They work in a variety of professions, although most families have at least one person working in education. Religious life in Alon Shvut largely revolves around the Ashkenazi, Sefaradi, and Yeminite synagogues, and assorted minyanim. Torah classes are ubiquitous for both men and women. Morning classes are also available for women who are at home.

English speakers will find a warm, welcoming community in Alon Shvut. There is a large English-speaking population, and even an English language book club. In addition, the community offers several classes taught in English. The English speaking community is very close and frequently socializes over Shabbat. Residents characterize their community as a warm Torah-centered community that actively supports its residents.

Education back to top^
The maon and Ganim in Alon Shvut are well-regarded by residents. One gan is located in the older neighborhood, while the other is in the new neighborhood. Both ganim have nice indoor and outdoor facilities.

The vast majority of children on the yishuv go to school at the regional elementary school. It is regarded by most residents of the yishuv as a yishuv school, since it is physically located in Alon Shvut and many of the teachers live there. Younger children receive bus transportation from their homes, while older children often walk to school. A fair number of Alon Shvut children also attend Orot Etzion elemenatary school in Efrat. After school, children often go to the community center next door for afternoon activities. Boys may go to yeshiva high school at one of the outstanding schools in Jerusalem or Efrat. Some girls go the Neve Chana Ulpana in Alon Shvut, while others go to Rosh Tzurim, Kiriyat Arba, Jerusalem, or other locations.

The children in Alon Shvut participate actively in Bnei Akiva activities, where there are separate groups for boys and girls.

Housing Options back to top^
Because Alon Shvut is so sought after a location, because people – even those who plan to come for only a brief stay – are loath to leave, and because the community has chosen (at least for the time being) to limit its future growth, homes on Alon Shvut are very difficult to come by.

Some rentals are available, since Alon Shvut families, who often have at least one educator among them, frequently spend a year or more serving in a Jewish community abroad. There are also caravans available in a new neighborhood called “Givat haHish.” There is always talk of expanding the yishuv and building new homes, but no one should come to the yishuv with the expectation that this will come into fruition. Alon Shvut’s loss, appears to be a gain for other yishuvim in the area, which seem to be selling more and more homes to people who have despaired of finding homes in Alon Shvut, but want to stay in the Gush.


Neve Daniel back to top^

Type of Community and size: Yishuv with over 300 families, over 1000 residents
Religious life: Religious-Zionist; Ashkenazi, Sefaradi, and Chabad minyanim; learning opportunities for men and women
Age range: Most in their 30s to 40s
Number of English-speaking olim: 30%; around 60% in new neighborhood
Accessibility to places of employment: Adequate; regular bus service between Neve Daniel and Jerusalem
Commercial establishments: Supermarket, bakery, housewares store, and pizza shop; 5 minutes from Efrat
Climate: Mountain. Summer days are hot and dry. Winters are cold and snow does occasionally fall; very windy
Contacts: Laura and Lawrence Ben-David, 02-9934886, bendavid.laura@gmail.com [NBN 2002]
Housing availability: few rentals available; homes for sale occasionally

Neve Daniel may well have the most sweeping and spectacular view in the whole country. Looking out from the yishuv’s summit on a clear day, it is possible to see the Temple Mount to the north, the tall buildings of Tel Aviv toward the west, and the mountains of Jordan toward the east. The yishuv has quickly become a prime destination for North American Religious Zionist Olim.

Location and Accessibility back to top^
Neve Daniel is the first yishuv you come to when traveling from Jerusalem into Gush Etzion. On the steep ascent from the main road into the yishuv, you will pass right by “Derekh Ha-Avot,” the path that, according to tradition, Avraham and Yitzhak took on their way to the binding.

While its lofty location does give Neve Daniel its fabulous views and its picturesque setting, it does have the disadvantage of making access to the yishuv somewhat difficult. It is really only possible to take buses that actually enter Neve Daniel, instead of those (such as the #160) that deposit riders at a stop on the main road. There are about 10 buses daily that stop inside Neve Daniel and travel toward Jerusalem, and twice that number that travel from Jerusalem to Neve Daniel. (Buses #161 and #164 enter the yishuv.) Like other Gush communities, it is difficult to live in Neve Daniel without a car.

Commerce and Services back to top^
The yishuv has a growing number of commercial and professional establishments. There is a bakery, hardware/houseware shop, supermarket, pizza shop, gift store, and printing shop. In addition to the stores mentioned, there are also dental and podiatry practices, and a Meuchedet clinic. For all other medical or commercial needs, residents can travel 5 minutes away to Efrat or Alon Shvut, or 12 minutes to the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Residents and Community back to top^
Neve Daniel residents describe the yishuv’s population as being “very professional” and “of a high caliber.” Most of the residents have impressive Jewish and secular educations.

Neve Daniel is a largely “Israeli yishuv” with a small dose of olim from various countries, in particular France and the U.S. Yishuv residents work in a variety of professions, and commute to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. A number of residents are also educators, who work in local Gush Etzion institutions.

The yishuv currently has Ashkenazi, Sefaradi, and Chabad minyanim, in addition to a Friday night Carlebach davening. Residents hope to complete construction on a large, attractive, new synagogue in the near future. A synagogue is also in the plans for the new neighborhood. Torah classes for children and adults are offered on Shabbat and during the week.

Education back to top^
Residents of Neve Daniel are happy with the yishuv’s maon and ganim. The facilities are modern and the teachers are caring. Children in Neve Daniel generally go to either the regional elementary school in Alon Shvut or Orot Etzion in Efrat. A few go to Reishit in Rosh Tzurim. In addition, the families that are affiliated with Chabad generally send their children to school in Beitar.

Bnei Akiva on Neve Daniel plays a very active role in the lives of the yishuv’s youth. Neve Daniel’s Bnei Akiva chapter has boys and girls in separate groups.

Housing back to top^
In the established neighborhood, there are very few homes available for sale or rental. There are a limited number of apartments that rent for $450-$600, and houses that rent for $700-$1100.

New residents on the yishuv are required to be approved by an acceptance committee.


Elazar back to top^

Type of Community and size: Yishuv with about 325 families
Religious life: Religious-Zionist; Ashkenazi and Sefaradi synagogues; mikve; learning opportunities for men and women
Age range: wide range, but large contingent in the 30-40 range
Number of English-speaking olim: 20%
Accessibility to places of employment: numerous buses between Elazar and Jerusalem
Commercial establishments: minimarket, close to Efrat and Alon Shvut
Climate: Mountain. Summer days are hot and dry. Winters are cold and snow does occasionally fall
Contacts: Yael and Dani Simckes, 02-9938333, yaelsim@hotmail.com, danjeru@hotmail.com
website:
http://www.elazar.org.il/

Housing availability: some rentals available; a few second-hand homes available for purchase

When asked to describe their community, residents of Elazar choose words like “warm,” “hevruti” (social), and diverse. Each of these words captures a different quality of this lovely yishuv. Yishuv Elazar began as a cooperative moshav established by North American olim in 1975. The community remained quite small until the decision to become a yishuv in the late 1980s. Since that time, it has grown from approximately 25 families to its current size of over 325 families. And the growth is continuing steadily.

The close-knit character of the yishuv is due, in large part, to the fact that it was established by olim who came to the Country with no family of their own. The residents truly became family to one another and the feeling continues to this day—especially for North American and British Olim who are seeking an extended family feel in their community. Members of the original moshav as well as more recent additions, both Anglo and Israeli, have made it their business to help new residents, especially new olim, acclimate and feel comfortable.

Location and Accessibility back to top^
Elazar is situated on a low-lying hill just off the main road running through Gush Etzion. It sports beautiful views of Alon Shvut, Efrat, Neve Daniel, and the fields and hills surrounding them The synagogue, ganim, and mini-market, and parks are in the center, and the homes are built around them, providing daily opportunities for meeting neighbors.

Elazar is perhaps the yishuv in Gush Etzion that is most accessible to public transportation. It is just south of Neve Daniel, but considerably closer to the main road. It is possible to take almost any bus that passes through the road on its way to the other Gush Etzion yishuvim, Efrat, Kiryat Arba, or even Be’er Sheva.

Commerce and Services back to top^
While Elazar has a fairly well-stocked mini-market, it lacks any other commercial establishments. However, Elazar is the closest Yishuv to Efrat, so most needs can be met only minutes away.

Residents and Community back to top^
Although the yishuv is Religious-Zionist, its population reflects the true diversity of that label. There are Ashkenazim, Sefaradim, and Yemenites. While visitors on Shabbat will see mostly men with embroidered kippot, there are a few hats as well. The important thing, according to the residents, is that they all eat at each other’s homes and share in one another’s simhas.

Approximately 30 percent of Elazar’s residents are either olim from English-speaking countries, or are children of such olim. It is not at all difficult to find an English-speaker on the yishuv. The English speakers form a cohesive “sub-community” on the yishuv and socialize frequently. Olim who wish to live in a community with an “Israeli” feel, though, need not shy away from the relatively large number of English speakers. Olim and native Israelis regularly interact. Unlike some large Anglo communities, this one does not sport an “imported” character.

Torah classes are offered during the week and on Shabbat by the Elazar’s Rav and other learned members of the yishuv.

Education back to top^
Elazar has a maon program for babies through age three. Residents are proud of Elazar’s ganim. The quality of instruction is widely acknowledged. Even children from outside the yishuv are attracted to the “ganei shiluv,” small group ganim offering special education services as well as supportive mainstreaming opportunities in the regular ganim.

Elementary school-aged children largely attend the regional elementary school in Alon Shvut or Reishit in Rosh Tzurim. A few attend Orot Etzion in Efrat. Children in junior high or high school generally attend one of the excellent institutions in the Gush, though there are some who travel to Jerusalem, Kiryat Arba, or Shomron as well.

Children in Elazar are very involved in Bnei Akiva activities.

Housing Options back to top^
Elazar has truly benefited from the growing popularity of Gush Etzion and the dearth of affordable housing. It has developed a new, rejuvenated image and young Israeli families have shown an ever-growing interest in moving there. In addition, the children of long-time residents have begun to return to raise their own children here—a great boon to the whole community.

There are some second hand homes available for sale including small, 2-3 bedroom apartments, larger 4-5 bedroom apartments, cottages, and a few villas. Prices range from $160,000-$350,000 or more. Rentals are quite affordable, about $500 for a 2-3 bedroom apartment and about $700-$1000 for a larger house. New residents on the yishuv are required to be approved by an acceptance committee.




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