Anat Harel and Yitzhak Santis call Hannaton, the pluralistic kibbutz located halfway between Haifa and Tiberias in Israel’s north, their home. Moving to Israel from San Francisco a couple of years ago, it was important for them to find a traditional yet open atmosphere for their family – they found that Kibbutz Hannaton fit that description perfectly.
Hannaton was founded in 1983 by a group of students affiliated with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City who decided to establish a kibbutz for members of the Conservative movement. They recruited members from across the United States and joined forces with the Israeli branch of Conservative Judaism, the Masorti movement. The Santis family felt that the kibbutz was the ideal place for them to raise a family and instill their daughter with the Jewish and Zionistic values they hold so dear.
Although the kibbutz has seen its share of ups and downs – in 2006 it was on the verge of dissolution until new management turned the economic situation around – today, the it is thriving and operates a dairy in partnership with Kibbutz Gat and a state-of-the-art chicken coop where chicken and turkey hatchlings are raised in a controlled, computerized environment. Hannaton also grows greenhouse tomatoes, table grapes and grapefruits, with the popular ‘Education & Lodging Center’ providing facilities and workshops for Conservative Jewish youth groups from North America.
For many years the Santis family yearned to come to Israel, but last year that dream became reality through Nefesh B’Nefesh’s ‘Go North’ program which helps North Americans discover the beauty of life in Northern Israel. ‘Go North’ participants receive a wide range of specially-tailored services and benefits including need-based grants and the help of absorption coordinators who assist in finding employment and meeting social needs. Michele Kaplan-Green who heads up ‘Go North’ loves getting to know the Olim before and after making Aliyah and takes special pride in seeing Israel’s north flourish with the contribution of ‘Go North’ participants: “Northern Israel offers a Jewish experience in a variety of communities located outside of the city. If someone has felt that they wanted a country life but did not want to leave Jewish society, ‘Go North’ is for them.”
Now, after Aliyah, Anat spends her day studying to be a tour guide and teaching English, while Yitzchak combines working from home and commuting to the Jerusalem based office a couple times a week. And they love living in Northern Israel. They enjoy being surrounded by scenic and calm surrounding. Anat is moved by the small things: “Every time I see street signs in Hebrew it brings tears to my eyes. These are not tears of sadness but of pure joy and gratitude that I was given the opportunity to live in this beautiful country. I feel truly blessed to live in a place where I wake up every morning to the sound of birds humming and children laughing”.
Anat and Yitzhak recall their road to Aliyah having some challenges, but it was very worth it. Their advice to olim is to think outside the box and to accept that it may take time to figure out what they are looking for in a community. In their eyes, the beauty of Israel is its diversity – it embraces a mixture of people with varied backgrounds, lifestyles, religious affiliation, cultures and traditions.