Ra'anana And Shalom Bayit
Updated: Jan 31, 2019
Ra’anana is a unique and beautiful city which has been blessed with communal Shalom Bayit - a mixed population of religious and secular Jews who live peacefully together and have created a tolerant and accepting environment.
Founded by pioneers in 1922, the area was dubbed "Little America" as most of its residents were English speakers who had emigrated from New York (not much has changed, as a friend recently quipped that Ra’anana’s nickname is “The Sixth Town”). Ra’anana is a spotless city located in the heart of the southern Sharon Plain, flanked by Kfar Saba on the east and Herzliya on the southwest. Ra’anana has grown to over 80,000 residents, 30% of whom are English speakers.
Ra’anana has been named the city with the highest quality of life in Israel and the safest city in the Middle East, and provides a wide range of retail centers, as well as many cultural, sports, and entertainment programs. It is understandable why people who come to Ra'anana never want to leave – and it helps to explain the community’s rather pricey housing market (which is more similar to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv pricing as opposed to most suburban communities).
Some of Ra’anana’s residents work in its northern industrial zone - home to numerous international high-tech companies - but most travel ten miles to Tel Aviv or to the hi-tech industrial parks in Petach Tikvah and Hertzliya Pituach. Ra'anana has a fine highway system and very good public transportation, including train stations a few minutes away in Herzliya and Kfar Saba.
With its balmy winters and warm and humid summers, Ra’anana’s residents take full advantage of its dozens of gardens and playgrounds, with its crown jewel being Park Ra’anana, which offers many sports fields and playgrounds and an amphitheater which hosts musical performances.
Approximately 30% percent of Ra’anana’s population is religious, with the vast majority being Dati Leumi (Religious-Zionist) in addition to a smaller Yeshivish community. There are many learning opportunities for adults, including a women’s morning program run by Matan, and plenty of English shiurim for men at the Ra’anana Community Kollel. Two particularly flourishing Anglo synagogues are Kehillat Ohel Ari, which offers many educational and cultural opportunities for adults and children, and houses a kollel and a thriving outreach program, and Kehillat Shivtei Yisrael, which has a large British and South African constituency and provides many learning and social activities.
One institution that is an integral part of the social fabric of the community is Beit Issie Shapiro, an internationally renowned organization that offers many therapeutic programs for the physically, developmentally and learning disabled populations. This organization also created Park Chaverim - a fully accessible park for the physically challenged population - within the larger Park Ra'anana. Park Chaverim has a carousel for wheelchair users, braille signage for the blind and different apparatus to help the deaf feel the vibrations of sound. My daughter Tova, a wonderful 14-year-old young woman who has Down Syndrome, loves visiting Park Chaverim, as do her sisters and brothers.
When interviewing people for this article, I was impressed that every person focused on the citywide sense of community, and the warmth and welcoming nature of the English-speaking shuls. Ra’anana has produced this atmosphere of mutual respect by valuing and addressing the unique needs of its many subgroups.
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