Sunset over Haifa Bay, seen from the Cronin's home
Well….we did it! After 30 years of thinking about it and 16 years ago almost doing it, in August 2008 we actually did it!
This time all the factors came together. The time had arrived to realise our dream of moving North, we weren’t getting any younger and we felt we were ready to leave our Raanana ‘bubble’ existence. Most importantly we had the blessing and encouragement of all our family.
After spending a few long weekends away making enquiries about the different settlements, talking to as many people as we could, and looking at the available property market, we made our decision. We ‘homed in’ on a new village in the Upper Galilee, part of the Misgav Regional Council, famed for its emphasis on good education and environmental awareness.
Altitude was important for me since one of our main concerns was to get away from the humidity of the coastal plain and my summer misery which affected all those around me. Now, at 600 meters above sea level, I can sit at my computer on a midsummer day without an air conditioner, a delight previously unimaginable. The summer evenings are even chilly accompanied by the wonderful vista of the Mediterranean sunsets.
We chose a new village since we felt it would be easier to get to know people rather than breaking in to established social units. Here everything is new and we feel that we are pioneers, albeit without the hardships of the early ‘halutzim’. Most families have moved from Karmiel, Haifa and the Krayot, and there are a few, like us, who’ve ‘escaped’ from the center. About a third of the population is around our age so we have a very active 50+ club which organizes lectures, trips and social get togethers.
Our settlement, Lavon (named for the Minister of Defence of the 1950’s, Pinhas Lavon) was set up by the industrialist Stef Wertheimer in 2000 after reallocation of the land. He set up a small industrial area as an offshoot of his brainchild, Tefen, together with a technical high school and an area, continuing up the hillside, of apartment buildings and plots for private purchase. We have the most amazing views looking south over Karmiel to the hills of the Lower Galilee, to the Golan Heights and Northern Jordan in the east, and to the Carmel range, Haifa, Nahariya and the Mediterranean sea to the west. Waking up to these views energizes us each day anew.
We found that the houses available for purchase were designed for families with children and not suitable for us – so we purchased a plot and built our own house. Eleven months after they started excavating the foundations, we moved in.
Although my husband is a civil engineer by profession, we employed an architect and local project manager which meant that Mike could carry on working meanwhile in Tel Aviv whilst work on the house was going on, a decision that we have not regretted. We travelled up once a week to check on progress and to choose fixtures and fittings, enjoying the process of visiting areas we’d never seen before, finding somewhere interesting on the way for a meal, and even getting back in time to pick up our granddaughter from school in Kfar Yona. It’s amazing what one can achieve in a day.
We chose a flat plot (many homes are built on the hillside) so that our main living/sleeping area is on one level and there are stairs up to the guest area. We enjoy entertaining our family and friends for weekends which adds a different dimension to our former habits. Now we feel completely at home in our new house and are enjoying our new concomitant hobby of gardening.
One prominent factor of life in the Galilee is the intermingling in everyday life of all the local populations – Jews, Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, Druse and Bedouin. I am currently employed in a Jewish village by a Christian Arab pharmacist whose wife teaches Hebrew at a Muslim school. Many local Israelis have learnt Arabic and can converse on an everyday basis. Suitable greetings abound between members of all the religions before each festival so, on a superficial level at least, one can say that coexistence works.
We are situated 10 minutes from Karmiel, so most of our shopping, medical requirements and technical services are found there. The local council is a 20 minute drive away and is a pleasure to get there travelling on Route 784, one of Israel’s most beautiful roads (and almost no traffic lights!). Lavon has a number of committees that plan seasonal events and trips for all the age groups, and there is no lack of music, theater and entertainment in Karmiel and other nearby communities.
Of course there are some drawbacks….Mike’s promised employment of working on the Akko-Karmiel railway line did not materialize, so he decided to retrain as an advisor for Accessibility for the Disabled, an experience that he is thoroughly enjoying.
The mountainous conditions and swirling low cloud systems make winter driving particularly hazardous exacerbated by the inconsiderate driving techniques of some drivers. On many occasions we drive by cars that have misjudged corners and swerved into the ditch.
Getting around is definitely easier if you have your own means of transport. Public transport is practically nonexistent and, although neighbors are happy to give anyone a lift, you can’t always rely on someone going your direction.
So, on the whole we have no regrets. The fact that there are not many Anglos in Lavon has not affected us, although there are many Misgav communities that do have a high proportion of English speakers, such as Har Halutz, Tuval, Manof, Shorashim and Shechanya.
Our new way of life suits us down to the ground of our own plot of land in the Galil.
Frankie and Mike Cronin have been ESRA volunteers and leaders since ESRA’s inception.