Many of you know that my wife and I, and our four kids, plan to make aliya in the summer of 2011 to a new town being built 20 minutes north of Beer Sheva, Carmit. The vision for Carmit is that it should be a diverse, pluralistic town eventually growing to over 10,000 people, with affordable, quality, environmentally sensitive housing. We want to attract Americans, Anglos and Israelis, datti’im of all stripes and chilonim of all stripes – just as long as people are willing to live happily in an open-minded and non-judgmental community.
My plan is to be a community rabbi in this town, to be a Rav Kehilati of a shul that reaches out to all Jews, and believes in actively programming for the community and creating an environment of togetherness and growth. There is a new appreciation in Israel, especially amongst rabbanei Tzohar, that the shul has to be a welcoming place for everyone in the community, not just the regulars or those who feel that have to come to find a minyan or a place to hear Torah reading. I want to be part of that new trend. A group of us in Chicago, including a wonderful couple Dan and Rosie Mattio – and their young baby – have formed a non-for-profit called CIPF (Chicago Israel Philanthropic Fund) whose mission it is to bring Americans to Israel by creating diverse and pluralistic communities. If you want more information see the web site: CIPF.org.
Already, without even starting any official publicity, we have over 35 families – from just out of college to retirement age – who have expressed strong interest in moving to Carmit. We hope that Carmit becomes a cultural, educational and religious destination in Israel – perhaps the pluralism capital of the Holy Land. I sincerely hope that the environmental groups in Israel welcome Carmit because the type of people moving to Carmit are excited about sustainable, green living and will be the best advocates Israel has for caring for the environment. Likewise, I hope that Carmit is seen as a friend of the Jewish and Arab population – especially the Bedouins – of the Negev, because we truly will be: we will be the advocates for all populations of the Negev, and we have already had ideas about how to reach out to Bedouins nearby, to Ethiopian Jews not too far away, and to the students who are part of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, who are eager to engage in social action.
Carmit, just one hour from Tel Aviv (by train) and a bit over an hour from Jerusalem, will God willing be a town representing the best of Avraham and Sarah’s open, welcoming tent and will provide a model for Jews and human beings all over the world of how to live together in harmony, learning from each other, respecting each other and benefiting from diversity and different ways of being descent human beings.