Mariah Edry, sits on a wooden garden swing in the hot Israeli sun, lazily watching her three children on the playground of Beit Canada, a Jerusalem absorption center.
Yochai, one of her 2-year-old twins, chases a gray cat, while his sister, Emunah, climbs the slide ladder, crying for her bottle. Although the temperature has topped a sweltering 100 degrees, Edry, a newly arrived immigrant from North Hollywood, is happy that her children are outside.
"I like the freedom that the kids have playing outside here," Edry says, as she bottle-feeds her youngest daughter, 1-year-old Bracha. "In the States, kids have to play inside your house. There is no such thing playing outside."
The Edrys are one of three families from Los Angeles who have made aliyah -- which literally means "up," but connotes a permanent move to Israel -- with a group of 300 North American Jews brought by Nefesh B'Nefesh (Jewish Souls United), a new organization offering financial incentives to help families move to Israel.
Meyer and Mariah Edry have wanted to make aliyah ever since they became religious 10 years ago.
"We couldn't have kids for many years, and we always said that whenever we would have children, we would raise them in Israel," the 30-year-old mother says. "It took us seven years of trying to conceive, and then we had the twins, and a year later we had this baby. Then we said, 'That's it. It's time for us to leave. It's time for us to go back home.'"
Currently, the Edrys' home is a small and sparsely furnished two-bedroom apartment in the Mercaz Klitah (absorption center). The center is home to many new immigrants. Walking through the facility, one can hear conversations in English, Dutch, French, Russian and Spanish.
But the center is only a temporary home; the Edrys plan to stay for two months. They are living out of their suitcases while they wait for their container of household goods to arrive from Los Angeles. In the meantime, they are looking for a religious neighborhood in which to live.
The family would like to find a cottage in Ramot, a middle-class, largely Anglo neighborhood in Jerusalem. However, if that proves too expensive, then they might consider Beit Shemesh, a newer religious suburb about a half-hour drive from Jerusalem, or Tiberias in the north, three hours away and next to the Galilee.
Where they move will also depend on where Meyer Edry, 35, can find work. The Edrys saved for three years to make aliyah, and Meyer Edry's plan is to use the money to buy a taxi license. In Los Angeles, he had a business selling cell phones and said he likes the idea of being in control. "I just don't want any bosses."
The family purchased an inexpensive car to use until they get settled and Edry plans to buy a taxi. They use the vehicle to travel to the various government offices that handle the forms pertaining to their aliyah and the taxi license.
"Having a taxi is an easy way of having my own clients, and it is not like a store where I have to be there from certain hours," Edry said. "With the extra time, I can study more in the yeshiva."
Once settled, Mariah Edry plans on improving her Hebrew in an ulpan, an intensive course. She can read Hebrew but has difficulties speaking it, unlike her husband, who is fluent in the language. Edry also wants find a job. She said she doesn't want any financial troubles to stand in the way of her family succeeding in Israel.
"Before I came here, I was very worried about the terror, because I was bringing my kids here," Mariah Edry says. "I discussed it with my husband, and he said that if something is going to happen to you or your kids, it can happen anywhere."
"It can be dangerous anywhere in the world," she continues. "But here, it is different. You don't feel the danger. I thought when I went to downtown Jerusalem, I wouldn't see people, but I see that life continues and people continue, and I guess that is how it should be."
Despite being in Israel just a short time, Edry feels strongly that they have made the right decision. "When we called my family after we arrived, and they asked us, 'How do you feel?' we said, 'We feel like fish in the ocean. We feel that we have come to the right place.'"
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