David Sidon looks like he was born a religious farmer happily raising his five daughters with his wife Yael in the Upper Galilee yishuv- settlement of Yesod Hamaalah. But David was not born religious and he and his wife actually lived in secular cosmopolitan Tel-Aviv. Every other word is ‘Baruch Hashem’ –Bless G-d just like someone religious, but it wasn’t always that way.
“I went looking for G-d in Bnei Brak”
David tells his story: “I was born to a totally secular home, but my progression to embracing Judaism happened in one moment, upon meeting my wife who came from a more traditional home. A short while after we met I was invited to their home for a Friday night Shabbat meal. I came and was totally surprised. This was actually the first time I actually saw a Shabbat table with everyone sitting around the table making Kiddush and eating in a warm and embracing family atmosphere. I felt I also want to be a part of this. For many days after I asked myself: How is it possible that I never sat at a Shabbat table? How did I miss out? I tried to investigate Judaism a bit and listen to some lectures and I began to understand that Judaism far deeper than sitting around the Shabbat table. I had many questions and no answers.”
So what did you do?
“I drove to Bnei Brak. I thought that I’d find G-d in Bnei Brak. I wandered around the stores and I bought some books. I sought answers to my questions in those books and more flustered. Fortunately with divine providence, I merited meeting an amazing Jew named Baruch Faivelson who helped me clear all my confusion. He explained many different concepts and even came to my home for 3 days. I really appreciate everything he did for us. He actually left his wife and children for those 3 days in order to fill our home on Ben Yehudah Street in Tel Aviv with holiness. Be brought light into our home. A great part of our embracing Judaism was due to him and his efforts.”
“I didn’t yet dare wear a kippa”
David was already enchanted with authentic Judaism and there was no going back, but it wasn’t easy. “Obviously it wasn’t easy; all told, we were Tel Avivians who lived the Tel Aviv life, not on the fringe of it but in the thick of it with all the difficulties it entailed. My biggest challenge was the reaction of my friends and peers. Some would say: “Did you go totally nuts?” Others would say: What is this foolishness?” There were more extreme reactions too. No one was prepared to accept my explanation that it’s good for my body and for my soul and my peace of mind. No one understood when I explained that for years I was searching for something and I finally found it. My surrounding circle of friends totally didn’t understand me.”
David adds: “At the time I would wear my tzitzith- fringes under my clothing and not wear a kippa. I was religious mainly in secret and I wasn’t yet able to wear a kippa and draw derision from those around me. It was only 5 or 6 years later that I was able to openly wear my kippa on my head and openly speak about my being religious and keeping Torah and Mitzvoth.”
What gave you the strength during this difficult time?
“G-d gave me the strength. I always felt I had a spirit supporting me that literally pushes me forward. This is the first time I understood what spirituality is. I figured out that when you’re involved in the material you are materialistic and coarse and when you deal with the spiritual you become more refined. As someone that my whole life lived with the material and dealt with it, it was a pleasant surprise. I felt that there is a G-d and he accepts me the way I am. He waited for me all these years and he is prepared to wait longer. I was so enthusiastic with the sweetness of this idea that it enabled me to overcome every obstacle.”
What about your wife?
“My wife followed me but at first she was more reserved in her approach. Boruch Faivelson who first started me off explained that I can’t speed along at a pace that doesn’t suit her and I can’t give her a lifestyle that doesn’t fit her. You have to wait patiently until she’s ready. This made me slow down and waited for her so we could go hand in hand. Even today we walk forward together with great mutual appreciation for each other.”
“Like living in a vacation retreat”
Over the years their family grew. David said Shira his first daughter was born and soon after she was followed by Roni Adel his second daughter. “In those times we moved from central Tel-Aviv to Ramat Aviv where we thought it would be easier to raise our children, but we soon felt the city very confining and was no longer suitable for us. We looked for a quiet place where we could have the peace of mind to raise our children properly. That’s what brought us to Northern Israel to search out the possibilities of living in the outlying areas of Israel.”
“On our very first ride there we experienced divine assistance. We stopped at a gas station to fill up. We saw a row of trees and I asked the gas station attendant: “What is this area called?” He told me “it’s called Yesod Hamaalah”. We drove down the road and found the yishuv nestled in an astoundingly beautiful valley with endless scenery and we didn’t think twice. It was clear to us we wanted to live here.”
They first rented a house for a month but the quickly realized this was the place for them and they bought land and built a house. “We actually did this very quickly, as fast as we could and we settled down in the yishuv. Now we raise our 5 daughters and feel very fortunate, thank G-d. Each girl has her own bicycle and they each ride to their kindergartens or schools that are in walking distance. We have a large parcel of land with a petting farm, grassy areas, a fish pool and swimming pool and we have a lot of fun. We have all this here and it’s like living in a vacation retreat that never ends!”
David’s wife Yael is an accountant that works at home and David does woodworking. He builds pergolas, wooden homes, summer huts and more. But he also sets aside time for something else very important to him. “I try very mush to prevent cruelty to animals,” David says.
What do you mean?
“When I started embracing Judaism I developed a special compassion for all animals. I always saw how compassionate G-d is and I felt that I’m obligated to emulate his traits. G-d has compassion on every creature and I can’t ignore this. This led me to take in stray dogs and raise them, a kitten that lost his mother and very many hens. These are older hens whose egg producing days are waning. I discovered that hens are raise by egg farmers for only a year and a half. When they egg production slowing down they just electrocute the hen and order a special disposal truck. They don’t even make the effort to use the hens for animal food. When I understood that this is what was going on it hurt me very much and I decided to do something about it. I’m making a hen farm for retired hens. It’ll be a gigantic coop for older hens to live out their days in a more dignified way.”
“I already have four dunam (about 1 acre), a shaded roofed in area and all I need to do is make the coop and I turned to crowdfunding to help me do it. Hens could live another 7 years on the average. Isn’t it an obligation to help them?”