Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
A reader from Carmiel sent me a notice last week regarding "Kikar Miami." At first glance, it looked like any other restaurant advertisement until I read the fine print: Each patron who says something positive or optimistic about the Land of Israel would receive a 10% discount. The discount was meant to coincide with the Shelach Torah portion, where most of the spies who scouted the Land of Israel returned with a gloomy and pessimistic report.
I called the restaurant. One of the workers told me how people who came to the restaurant praised Israel's highly diversified landscape that includes deserts as well as snowy mountains. Some customers explained that the fruits, vegetables, and cheeses in Israel are the tastiest in the world. Others mentioned the special holiness of the Land. And then there were new immigrants who shared their aliyah stories and how emotional it was to see with their own eyes how the prophecy of the ingathering of the exiles has been fulfilled.
I asked about the proprietor and his story. So let me just say: "Pleased to make your acquaintance, Paltiel Koenigsberg." Now 40 years old, he owned two restaurants in Miami, Florida, until two years ago. He was born in New York and his wife is originally from Venezuela. His wife's sisters married Israelis who had moved to the United States and it was ironically through these former Israelis that he began to fall in love with the Land of Israel.
During the corona pandemic he began to understand that MIami was not his home. HIs family sold the restaurants and left for Israel. Paltiel made aliyah with his wife and six children (meanwhile a seventh child was born in Israel), his three sisters and their families, and his mother-in-law, a total of 25 new immigrants in all.
He had never heard the word Carmiel until his arrival in Israel. He had originally thought to live in Beit Shemesh because of the large American community there. But in traveling through Israel, the family fell in love with the North in general and with Carmiel in particular. "When I first came up north," he recalled, "suddenly everything was calm. Even the children in the back seat stopped fighting.
"We arrived in Israel exactly two years ago during parashat Shelach and the story of the spies and their negative report about the Land. Only two spies - Kalev and Yehoshua - were optimistic. We too felt a little like spies when we first came to Israel to check it out but our impressions were out of this world. From one day to the next we feel less American and more Israeli. We even managed to vote once and perhaps will soon do so a second time. We thought about how to mark the anniversary of our aliyah and now, since we have our own business in the Land of Israel, we decided to share our story with the public."
The Shelach discount is now over, but you can still continue the spirit of it.