Ra’anana 100th anniversary

The tagline at the end of my Cleveland Jewish News columns states that I report from Ra’anana, Israel, which is correct. My family and I moved from Cleveland to Ra’anana, a Tel Aviv suburb, in 1999. I have never regretted the move to Israel. Nor have I regretted the choice of Ra’anana, which has just embarked on celebrations marking its 100th anniversary.

It’s historically fitting that my wife and I and our two daughters, who were 5 and 6 years old at the time of our move, chose Ra’anana. It was founded by a group of American immigrants who called their association Ahuza A-New York. They actually arrived at the site from Tel Aviv, about 14 miles to the south, April 2, 1922. By 1931, according to the census taken by the ruling British authorities, Ra’anana had 182 households and 615 inhabitants. Today it’s home to about 90,000 people.

One of its residents is Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is himself the son of immigrants from San Francisco. Bennett and his wife have young children, the oldest of whom attends the same high school that my kids went to in Ra’anana. Because he didn’t want to uproot his family after he was elected prime minister in June, he opted to stay in Ra’anana rather than move to the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.

His neighbors aren’t thrilled, however. The block on which he lives has been closed to traffic for security reasons and even entering it on foot involves passing through a security checkpoint. An even greater nuisance for the neighbors has been loud protests near his house, including demonstrations by supporters of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by anti-vaxxers, who seem to be a much smaller minority in Israel than they are in the United States.

The police have imposed some limitations on noise and the hours during which the protests are allowed, but the neighbors have petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice seeking additional limitations. Last month, the court asked the police to consider further limitations on the size of the protests and their distance from Bennett’s house. Such restrictions wouldn’t apply to Bennett’s official residence in Jerusalem, but he doesn’t live there.

Ra’anana was a good place to raise our kids. Our younger daughter always said it was the best possible place to grow up. It became a struggle when she hit adolescence, however, because crime is much less of a concern here than it would be in the United States and kids are out on the streets unsupervised late into the night. We tried to be somewhat flexible, but not enough to satisfy her.

By one estimate, about 10% of the residents of Ra’anana are immigrants from English-speaking countries. That includes large numbers of Americans, South Africans and British immigrants. Particularly noticeable over the past few years has been the influx of immigrants to Ra’anana from France.

If ever we needed a sign that Americans have made their mark on Ra’anana, it came at the beginning of the month when the city dedicated a regulation baseball diamond as the home not only for the five youth baseball teams in the city but for an adult Ra’anana league team.

About once a year, I write a CJN column urging the paper’s readers to consider aliyah. This isn’t that column because the topic deserves much greater comment. Suffice it to say, however, for us, living in Israel has immeasurably enriched our lives, and Ra’anana proved to be a great place to live when we arrived in the country. It still is.

Cliff Savren is a former Clevelander who covers the Middle East for the Cleveland Jewish News from Ra’anana, Israel. He is an editor at Haaretz. To read more of Savren’s columns, visit cjn.org/savren.

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