Batya and Baruch Erdstein, with their six children, live in Itamar, a community located amidst the Samarian hills. Batya is originally from San Diego, California. She has a very pleasant, easy-going and spiritual demeanor. Batya has produced some of the fine ceramic products that have been sent in Lev Haolam’s Surprise Monthly Packages. We went to Itamar to interview Batya and to hear about her journey to and in Israel.
Batya told us that her and her husband had always been interested in living in Judea and Samaria. “When we first got married, we lived in Bat Ayin [Judea], but then we moved to Tsfat and then we found ourselves back here in the Shomron again… It’s one of the most beautiful places in Israel,” Batya tells us.
Batya continued to tell us about the ‘why’ that brought her and her family to Samaria. “I could have lived my life in San Diego, California working as a nurse and making a lot more money, but I believe that being here is our duty as Jews and I’m willing to put my life on the line to live here. And to be a part of the return of the Jewish people from all the four corners of the world to here, and to raise my children here… and it’s hard work but it’s beautiful work and we’re very excited to be here.”
Batya also finds inspiration for her work from her surroundings. “Things that are growing outside I pick and I bring it to the studio and I press it into the clay and I get ideas and inspiration through everything that is growing around me,” Batya told us.
The history of Samaria is also something that Batya apreciate very much. “Sometimes we take walks and we find old shards of pottery pieces and it really centers me and I know that what I’m doing here is reconnecting to Jews who thousands of years ago who were living here in this area and who were working with a pottery wheel and who were working with the same simple medium; working with clay and developing it into beautiful pots and that’s very special.”
Batya hasn’t always worked as a ceramics artist. “Originally I studied midwifery and it’s interesting because in the Torah it is written that the place that a woman gives birth is called ?ovnaim?, which is actually the same word for a pottery wheel and so the two are very connected,” she told us. Although one day her dream is to become a full time midwife, Batyah is happy with the success that she has seen so far from her work with ceramics. “I love it,” Batya said. “It’s just been developing more and more through the years. And my things are in some galleries and shops around Israel and all over the world. And it’s very exciting to know that I am making things out of clay and they are from here, from Israel… and they’re going all over the world.”
Batya is happy to be working with Lev Haolam and she tells us, “for me, I really feel like I’m doing something important now that these things are going out and it [helps] to support this area. And people are seeing us as a light to the world… and it’s important that my products go to people that appreciate them. I hope you love them and think of me when you use them.”