Olim Seek Religiously Tolerant Neighborhood

imageReader Debbie is making aliyah with two children, aged 6 and 14. She writes:

My husband is in the IT field so we are thinking of living within commuting distance of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or both, if possible. We have been exploring the idea of living, so far, in Ra’anana, Mo’diin, and Jerusalem. We are planning to come to Israel either two weeks before or two weeks after Passover this year for our pilot trip. I’m sure in the next month or so we’ll have more cities to add to our list of places to visit.

For now, we are focusing on:

  • Employment: my husband is in IT, so we need to be somewhere where he has some employment prospects. Schools: we need a school system that is patient/accepting of English speaking olim.
  • Religion: We live in a fairly rural part of northwestern NJ where the Jewish community in our town is virtually non-existent.  We attend a Reform synagogue now 30 minutes away, but we hope within a year of moving to Israel we will be able to be more observant.  So initially, we need to live somewhere where we can learn and adjust to a more religious lifestyle than we currently have.
  • Community: Hopefully a community with some English speakers, with good public transportation (I doubt we will be buying a car initially), and some services for olim, such as Ulpan. If any communities come to mind I’d love to hear about them!

Can you help Debbie and her family? Debbie has heard of the Tali school system (part of the secular system, but with stronger religious studies), but doesn’t don’t know where they are all located.

You may also enjoy:

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Photo credit: Hamed Saber


  1. How about Mazkeret Batya? It sounds like it may fit the bill for most of what they’re looking for, and is near Kiryat Gat/Rehovot re. work



  2. Modiin has easy transportation to Har Hotzvim in Jerusalem and most of Tel Aviv. Raanana could be an advantage for jobs in Raanana or Hertzelia.

    Modiin has the Yachad school which is mixed religious and non-religious.

    Jerusalem is a pain in terms of getting to Tel Aviv and the job market is better in Tel Aviv than it is in Jerusalem.

    Modiin and Raanana are both pretty mixed, so religiously, either one would be a good match. Jerusalem, it really depends on the neighborhood.

    Weather is different in each of the three places. Raanana can be humid in summer. Jerusalem is generally colder, and Modiin is somewhere in between.

  3. I think a place like Mazkeret Batya would be very difficult without a car. (Not necessarily within, but to get out–and chances are that for things like ulpan and other olim services you’d have to go to Rechovot or Ramle.)

    We’re very happy with our choice to make aliyah to Modiin–public transport within the city isn’t the greatest, but you can choose where to live carefully and do ok without a car. The train to Tel Aviv is great. Buses/sherut to Jerusalem…heard mixed things, but I think carpooling is fairly common.

    There is an active Reform community and an active Masorti (Conservative) community. There is a Tali school in Reut (a smaller city that abuts and is considered a section of Modiin) and, as Leah said, Yachad in Modiin proper. The population runs the gamut from completely secular to not–I think it’s 20% dati? Different neighborhoods do have different “flavors” though.

    Modiin has an ulpan for adults on a semester basis (Sept-Feb and Feb-July) and a kids’ ulpan nested within an elementary school. There are 2-3 employees of the city government who are meant to look out for olim–help them deal with the process, get the arnona discounts, get registered for schools, etc. It’s been very helpful for us.

  4. Sounds like Ariel would be right up your alley.

    Please feel free to email me for more info. WE’d love to have you come and visit and take a look for yourself.

  5. Ranaana sounds like it would be good for you. They have a very nice Reform community, lots of olim services and olim in general, good Tali schools if you’re interested and very close to Herziliya/ Kfar Saba IT centers. Real estate is very expensive there now though.

    It also has a nice layout, with a city center that is accessible from most residential streets, lots of access to shopping and cultural activities that don’t require a car, buses to the beach or Kfar Saba, and Tel Aviv.

  6. definitely a plug for modiin. IMO the weather is better here than in raanana, and there are pretty hills :). in additional to tali and yachad, there is also the yozma community, which im pretty sure is associated with the israeli reform movement, and has a lot of community programs, as well as the Orthodox Egalitarian Darchei Noam congregation, which is also a very active community.
    Also I don’t think anyone mentioned that on average the salaries in the Tel Aviv/Sharon area ARE higher than those in the Jlem area. Something to keep in mind, even if a good opportunity comes up in Jlem, there is only so far it will take you.
    HOWEVER, I hear that Rehovot is now the new Modiin, so you should probably look into it as well. It also has lots of trains, buses, etc up to Tel Aviv.
    Good luck!

  7. Modi’in, natch.

    One of the things I love about the city that I didn’t have from the suburban NYC community I came from in the states is variety. I live in a very mixed community, religiously and there seems to be something for everyone, both adult and kids (educationally, I mean). And the olim services are quite good here. There will be plenty of English speakers, although (except for certain enclaves) it’s very Israeli culturally. And it’s a great place to stay or get into shape, especially without a car. We’ve got some great hills. It’s a beautiful, vibrant city. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions.

  8. I have heard that Modiin in not an option without a car. I also would be concerned about being in Jerusalem without an acceptable religious label.

    I LOVE Petach Tikvah. We chose it because I was planning to commute to Tel Aviv. Some people are bothered by all the Russians (not Jewish). You will find signs and pamphlets in Hebrew and Russian, but not always English. There are ample services for new olim and it is very convenient without a car, especially where we live in the center of the city. I have made many friends, and I don’t speak Hebrew. I like that there are few enough English speakers where it can be a foundation for friendship, as opposed to Jerusalem, where everyone speaks English. It won’t matter where you are religiously, the English speaking community is very friendly.

    You should also consider Rehovot. They have a tight knit English modern Orthodox community. You may find more learning opportunities in English, like English speaking Rabbis and a Shiur in English.

    Try to get the community book put out by Tehilla. There is also a lot of info on their site http://www.kehillottehilla.com/communities.asp and NBN’s site http://www.nbn.org.il/communities/template/community.

  9. We have one car–I rarely have access to it because my husband takes it to work. I walk, get rides and occasionally take cabs. I hear that public transportation has greatly within the city but I don’t use it myself so I can’t comment. My kids take buses and tell me they basically arrive on schedule.

    But I did want to add one thing that was started by the teens themselves this year–a social group for teenage olim. They meet regularly and my kids have made lots of friends through the group. Both orthodox and non-orthodox kids attend.

    • Hi Baila – I did have another question for you if you don’t mind 🙂 If you have any suggestions on how to make the transition easier for my 14 yr old daughter easier! She is very excited to be visiting Israel in 3 weeks, but I am concerned about how it will be once we actually move. I am trying to find other girls that have actually made aliyah, preferably from the US for her to email with to ask questions and get some ideas about what it’s like to move to Israel. Any suggestions would be appreciated 🙂

  10. We made aliyah to Rehovot this past September from Ocean County, NJ. We do not have a car and have no problem getting around. Depending on where you live, it will be easier or harder. The person who showed us around on our pilot trip had been living here for 9 years without a car. Some of the things which attracted us to Rehovot: the fact that you don’t have to peg yourself religiously,there is everything from modern to Chassidish and non-religious; the good percentage of Anglos, in fact the Berman shul, which might be best for you and which we frequent, is Anglo and tries to pattern itself on American synagogues which have social activities as well as services; the fact that we don’t need a car; the proximity to both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; and the weather. Our children are post high-school so I can’t tell you about the school system. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information. BTW, a good thing to do would be to get on the yahoo groups for the communities which you are considering – you can ask questions and find out about the community in general in this way, including available housing. If you are going through Nefesh B’Nefesh, get onto their yahoo group as well.

  11. Nachlaot in Jerusalem

  12. I’ve been living in Modiin for 12 years without a car, and it only became a problem this year. My husband has no problem taking the kids to gan by foot, but it’s hard for me to get them even though it’s a 15-minute walk because I have fibromyalgia. If you do choose to live in Modiin, I’d choose the center area where you’re walking distance of the mall, bus stops out of town, and the train station.

  13. This post put me in mind of an article that I read in Makor Rishon a few weeks ago, about a “garin” or committed community of Anglo immigrants and native Israelis in Be’er-Sheva. The article is in Hebrew, so perhaps wouldn’t be very useful to the prospective olim, but it does describe what sounds like a pleasant, religiously-diverse and idealistic community in a city that is off the beaten track for most new immigrants from the US.
    I lived in Be’er-Sheva for a couple of years as a new olah. I had a better job there (at the University) than I could have found at the time in one of the more “popular” cities, but I was single and found it a hard place to be. However, I did always think that Be’er-Sheva would be a tranquil and easygoing place to raise a family.
    I hear that a Be’er-Sheva-Tel Aviv commute is more realistic than it once was, thanks to the train. I believe it’s also a lot cheaper to live there (read: one can afford a larger home).

    One other thought I had about this post: what came across to me particularly was Reader Debbie’s hope of leading a more observant life once in Israel. This being the case, wouldn’t a regular state religious (“mamad”) school be a more flexible choice than a Tali? I don’t want to offend anyone out there who sends to Tali, but it seems to me that folks whose religious identity hasn’t yet gelled might be better off sending their kids to a school system that offers a more “mainstream” religious education, so as not to close off any of their options, as it were. As far as I know, the state religious schools don’t require the families that send to them to be religiously observant; many non-Orthodox families send to them. Again, without wanting to offend anyone, I have the feeling that when you send to Tali you are basically aligning yourself with a non-Orthodox approach to Judaism — which may not be in the best interests of a family that is still religiously “in flux.”

  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you! So many comments! So much advice. Yesterday we started finalizing our plans to come for our pilot trip between March 31 and April 13, and I will re-read all these comments and take them into consideration when planning out places to visit. And a special thanks to amotherinIsrael for taking the time to post about my questions. One last question though – does anyone have any suggestions on some fun things to do with the kids while we’re there in 3 weeks?

  15. My family came in August to Jerusalem with a 10 yr old girl and 15 yr old boy. I’ld be happy to
    speak with you about our experiences. I also recommend joining the yahoo and nbn lists and you can also post questionson janglo and tanglo. For fun ideas while you are here look at funinjerusalem.com. In Jerusalem my kids enjoy the water tunnel at the City of David and the
    Kotel tunnel tour as well as hiking at Ein Gedi-you can get there by bus if you will not have a car
    while you are here.