Photo Credit: Wikimedia

It all began with a wonderful announcement, one we had literally waited years to hear: “We’re doing it! We’re making aliyah!”

My husband and I had already been blessed to be living in the Holy Land for over twenty years, with b’H seven of our children within close walking and/or driving distance. But we’re not the type to rest on our laurels, and had been actively encouraging my husband’s beloved brother and sister-in-law to join us as well.

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They had an entire laundry list of valid reasons to remain in the USA, but eventually our persistence paid off, and they ultimately decided to harken to their own “Lech lecha.”

The entire family and a sizable contingent of close friends in Israel were ecstatic when they heard the long awaited news; America’s loss was most definitely Israel’s gain! In what can only be described as a series of small miracles, things began falling into place almost immediately. Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency seemingly fast-tracked them through the usually painstaking, snail’s pace aliyah process, streamlining the paperwork and bureaucracy and eventually granting them seats on their aliyah flight of choice.

On the “home” front too, much siyata diShmaya was apparent; their house in the U.S. passed several daunting home inspections with flying colors, and subsequently sold with relative ease. Despite the marathon of Tishrei yamim tovim, they somehow managed to pack, donate, and toss decades of accumulation, and have their lift shipped and their luggage ready in time. And on and on, one miracle after another, until, unbelievably, their flight arrived, and we stood at the airport bright and early on a beautiful Wednesday morning to welcome them with open arms and joyous hearts.

And when the van from NBN dropped them off on our block several hours later, they were greeted by signs, flags, balloon and flower bouquets, drums, a shofar blast, dancing, singing, endless rounds of hugs, and an emotional l’chaim and Shehechiyanu blessing, all of it lovingly planned by their wonderful friends from Elkana, and filmed by our oldest son using his state-of-the-art drone.

In fact, the only issue that marred their otherwise perfect experience was the undeniably abysmal state of the housing market. Every realtor I spoke to (and there were many!) said the same thing: Due to Covid-19 and associated factors, there had been virtually no rentals available for the better part of a year! And, in keeping with the age-old law of supply and demand, the few apartments that did make it to the market were usually snatched up almost overnight, at ridiculously inflated prices!

I spent many months searching and researching, signing up for seemingly every website and WhatsApp group out there, and calling the moment a posting appeared or was sent by one of our many loyal ‘scouts.’ Despite all that, by the time they arrived on that magnificent Wednesday morning, we were ostensibly not one inch closer to finding them a suitable long-term rental.

My wonderful machateinista, hearing my tale of woe, took it upon herself to assist in the apartment quest, contacting every realtor she knew and requesting leads. So I was only mildly surprised when she sent me a WhatsApp with photos and a video of a rental that had just become available. It had several unique features, such as a private entrance, a garden, a large living room/dining room and a beautiful huge patio, but the bedrooms were small and the floors and bathrooms had not been updated. It also seemed quite pricey, and was being shown by a real estate agent, which generally meant paying an additional month’s rent in realty fees.

I thanked her sincerely, but we did not rush to view the property, and instead kept our eyes and ears open for other options. After seeing a number of very disappointing and overpriced possibilities, however, we decided to revisit her suggestion. To our delight it was incredibly still available.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law scheduled a visit, and were extremely impressed by both the apartment and the agent. They returned the following morning with a close friend/professional interior decorator who likewise gave it a thumbs-up, and declared that although it was an apartment, the private entrance and ample outdoor space gave it the feel of a private home.

We went to see it with them that night, making the foolhardy decision to navigate our way there in the dark, with directionally-challenged ‘yours truly’ reluctantly leading the (wrong) way.

In retrospect, our convoluted route to the apartment was a fitting allegory for the long and circuitous route we had traversed until we finally arrived at that point. And, unlike my inept attempt at finding our destination, we felt HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s hand in ours, graciously leading us along, every step of the way.

We also were very taken with the apartment and likewise told them to grab it, while we marveled at the realtor’s uncharacteristic patience and calm demeanor. My sister-in-law justifiably called him “a malach,” in stark contrast to other frustrated, practically cut throat agents we had encountered.

After an excruciating nail biting wait, they were b’H granted a contract and the keys to the kingdom! We went along for the two-hour signing session, followed by multiple hugs and a series of euphoric Kodak moments. After a month of living in our enclosed garage, they had finally found their dream home!

But the story does not end there. In hindsight, there were any number of minor miracles at play: The apartment was never advertised publicly; instead it was listed exclusively with this uber-mensch of a realtor, who set about hand picking the perfect tenants. My concerned machateinista had contacted him out of the blue, and that was how we were privy to hear of this totally under-the-radar find that would have otherwise been gone in thirty seconds. Another family had nearly signed at a higher price, but the landlords ultimately declined their offer. The icing on the cake: The realtor/malach collected his fee from the landlords who had hired him, and unlike most, refused to “double dip,” declining any payment from my in-laws!

Remarkably, the realtor lives in the same building as our daughter, and both his wife, t’l, and her mother, a”h, had a long, special history with our family. My brother-in-law was the wife’s “favorite principal”, and years later she was my husband’s secretary! Her lovely mother, a”h, had taught for both brothers in their respective day schools, and had lovingly shared her famous Yerushalmi kugel with my brother-in-law every erev Shabbos. Most incredible of all, the night my in-laws initially saw the apartment was this special woman’s tenth yahrzeit!

Even the protracted search had been meticulously orchestrated by Hakadosh Baruch Hu for our benefit… Had they seen the apartment when they first heard about it, soon after leaving their private home in the US, they would have no doubt felt somewhat deflated. However, after repeatedly schlepping up flights of stairs to view any number of cramped, overpriced apartments, they were truly overjoyed to have finally found their own magnificent slice of Gan Eden!

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