I Love Netanya
Tzvi FishmanBefore making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter....
Another mitzvah brought my wife and myself to Netanya. After we finished our mission, we strolled along the seaside park overlooking the ocean, enjoying the cool wind and sparkling Mediterranean Sea.
Netanya is located a half-hour drive north of the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv. It doesn’t suffer from the car pollution that clouds the larger city, and it has a much more resort-town atmosphere. Usually when we have a vacation, the choice is between Netanya or the forests of the Galil. We both love the sea, and for me, the Hasidic community of Sanz is a short car hop away from the hotel, with its shteibel of minyans and a refreshing morning mikvah for only 5 shekels.
Plus there is a very nice beach for men only, where I can go for a swim, and enjoy an added mikvah in the sea, without damaging my eyeballs.
I have a special love for the beach because that’s where Hashem hit me over the head with a thunderbolt and gave me the Jewish brain transplant that set me off to Israel. Decades ago, I was sitting on a beach in Santa Monica, when an Israeli friend, who was trying to make it as an actor in LA, asked me why I didn’t know anything about Judaism. He himself had grown up in a traditional Moroccan family, and while he was taking a hiatus from the mitzvot in Hollywood, he still had a great love and respect for the religion. His question blew me away. I had studied and read up about everything, from philosophy to yoga, art history, world literature, psychology, and the I Ching. But I had never learned anything about Judaism! I remembered that Freud wrote that a person who avoids something close to him has a psychological block and must confront his unconscious fear head-on, in order to break on through, break on through, break on through….
So that very day, I purchased a Jewish Bible and returned to the beach, and started to read. “In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the earth.” Uh oh, I thought! There’s a G-d, and I haven’t been paying any attention to him! I continued reading, flipping pages as if it was an exciting screenplay. First G-d tells Avraham to go to Israel. Then he tells Moshe to take the Jews to Israel. Then he tells the Jews over and over to take the Torah, pack up their bags, and live out its teachings in Israel.
At first, I was confused. I mean, Hollywood is swarming with Jews. So either the Bible wasn’t right about Israel being the Land of the Jews, or the Jews in Hollywood weren’t living where they were supposed to.
Anyway, to make a long story short, as Sholom Aleichem would say, I asked G-d to give me a sign what to do? Should I move to Israel or stay in Hollywood and try to write stories about the Bible and Jews? The very next morning, when I left my seaside apartment, I saw a travel brochure in my mailbox. It was addressed to me and the Kotel was pictured on the cover with the caption, “Jerusalem My Chosen!” I got the goose bumps all over.
Not only had G-d answered my prayer, He had known in advance that I was going to ask, because He had to arrange someone to send the mind-blowing brochure to me so that it would appear in my mailbox the very morning after I asked for a Heavenly sign!
I bought a ticket to Israel that day.
So that’s an added reason why I like Netanya, where I can walk down to the beach and thank G-d for the great miracle He did for me by opening my eyes to the truth of the Torah, and pulling me out of the cesspool of America and the make-believe world of being a Jew in a gentile land.
But even without that, Netanya is a wonderful place. So be sure to visit it when you get here!