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How Israel Became our Home

Some of the guests at the Independence Day gathering in Raanana: Marilyn Perl, Frances Solomonovitch, Illana Bank and Jennifer (Jen) Gompes

How did we celebrate Israel's 70th? On Independence Day an English speaking group was invited to a delicious barbecue hosted by a very special person, Madeleine, in Raanana. In honor of the occasion guests were asked to say a few words of how we got to be living in Israel.

Here are our stories:

I was born in the UK. My parents came from Czechoslovakia and Hungary. When I was 12 years old I came here to Israel to visit my aunt who had survived the Holocaust. On returning to the UK I told my parents that I wanted to live in Israel. You may ask how did I know – "I did."

In 1974 I came to Israel to a kibbutz in Petach Tikva – Be'erot Yitzhak.

I returned to the UK, completed my studies and made aliyah in 1976 and have lived in Israel ever since. This is my home.

I am privileged to have been able to host friends who have become my family for the Yom Ha'atzmaut BBQ for over 30 people.

­– Madeleine Judith Schwarcz

After first coming to Israel as a child in 1962 from the UK to visit family here and returning many times thereafter, at age 24, I decided to stay in the country that I knew in my heart was "my real home".

All my family from both parents had left Berlin before 1940 and settled in Herzliya and London. Today I often forget that I was born elsewhere as I feel just as Israeli as the people born here.

Both my two wonderful grown-up sons and grandson were born here and when my sons served in the army I felt I was serving with them. I am a proud Israeli.

– Frances Solomonovitch

Both my parents were Polish. My father left Poland in 1938 when he emigrated to Lima, Peru. My mother was from Warsaw, and her family left Warsaw for Mexico when she was very young. My late grandfather was a Mohel and taught boys for their bar mitzvahs.

My parents met in Lima in 1948. I was born in Lima. I made aliyah from London at the end of July 2010. I was made redundant from my job. Just then I decided to make aliyah as my mother was suffering from Alzheimer's for many years and I wanted to help my siblings.

Unfortunately my mum passed away a year and a few months after I arrived in Israel. I always knew that I wanted to come and live here but I wasn't ready to do so before 2010. The blessing was that I lost my job and didn't want to look for a new one in London.

My aliyah went very smoothly. I have a daughter here, my siblings and friends. So I feel very much at home. I settled very well in Raanana and although there are things that I miss in London, like my other daughter, my three grandkids and my son-in-law, the greenery, the culture and history, I love Israel with its good things and bad things! I am very very happy that I came to live here.

This is our country. We belong here. This is my home.

– Esther Behrman

I grew up in a very orthodox Zionist home in Cape Town. At a young age I went to cheder and joined Habonim. I was a Zionist from about eight years old. I always knew I wanted to live in Israel.

I came to Kibbutz Maagan Michael and that was 46 years ago. I now live in Kfar Saba. I love Israel. My kids and grandkids are here and I could not see myself living anywhere else.

– Helen Sherer Magid

It's the third month in the country for my husband and I and our little son, and here is my story. I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. Until about age 17 I didn't give a thought about my roots even though most of my grandmother's family were killed in Luban, Belarus, by Nazis. But due to the Soviet past I suppose it wasn't customary in our family to talk about the Jewish traditions and such things.

So only in college did I start to learn slowly about the history and traditions of Jews as a nation.

When I was 25 I found out about the Birthright program and decided to go on it. Even though I still knew too little about Israel, I instantly felt at home when I stepped out of the plane at Ben Gurion Airport.

So after that amazing trip, I found out so much fascinating information and felt such warmth and bonding with the country, that I felt sure that this is the place I can live in.

The journey to Israel was full of surprises for me. Finally all circumstances aligned as was wished for and we were able to move. This journey for us is an adventure and so even the hard parts are not so scary yet. We hope to feel at home here for a long time.

– Anastasia Glanternick

I came to Israel in 1988. I was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and a couple of years later went to live in Johannesburg. I didn't want to come to Israel but came for peace.

I have been here for 30 years and made a life for us. It wasn't easy but I wouldn't go back even though all my family are still living there. My little family lives here – my three kids and myself.

– Karinne Sanders

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, and made aliyah in 1996 with my husband and three kids. I was very fortunate to have my parents, brother and sister make aliyah in the same year, and my 88-year-old grandfather followed a few months later.

My reason for coming was because I felt that South Africa was no longer a safe place for my kids. My friends gave me six months and advised me not to sell my house!

After 22 years of plenty of ups and downs, I am so proud to call this incredible country of ours "home", and could not imagine living anywhere else.

I love the feeling of belonging and unity, and feel so blessed that my grandchildren can grow up and be proud to be Jewish. 

– Illana Bank

The chefs get ready to prepare the Yom Ha’atzmaut barbecue in Raanana: Spencer Jacob, Martin Perl and Elias McQuade

I'm South African born and raised. I decided to make aliyah to give my son a better future. Israel was my only choice – I didn't consider anywhere else! I had been here as a child between the ages 8 to 11 and had wonderful memories. I'd lost my Hebrew and started from scratch at ulpan. It's not always easy, what our little country offers one would not find anywhere else. What makes the biggest impression on me is the freedom our children enjoy. In Israel every mother is a mother to all children!

– Lauren Levitas

I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, to Jewish parents both born in Amsterdam, Holland, and both Holocaust survivors. I came to Israel in 1982 and instantly felt I belonged. I returned and made aliyah in June 1984. Israel has been my beloved home ever since. I wouldn't live anywhere else!

– Jennifer (Jen) Gompes

Born in England, I came to Kibbutz Merhavia for six months after giving up my work as a flight attendant with BOAC in 1969. Returning to a teaching job in the UK, my thoughts were always in Israel. I came back in 1980 and married a local lad and here I still am nearly 40 years later.

– Susan Eisner

My mother is second generation UK. My Dad is from Calcutta. I made aliyah in 1994, staying in Kibbutz Gadot for seven years. I fell in love with kibbutz life and traveled the whole of Israel. I returned to the UK for twelve years to look after my twin brother who had MS (Multiple Sclerosis). He died in 2016. I returned to Israel because I missed the life here. This is my home.

– Spencer Jacob

I made aliyah in December 1990 with my husband and two small children from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, because it became predominantly Muslim and it was dangerous for us as Jews.

Three weeks after coming to Israel, war broke out and we had no language and no work. Life was hard.

I have two married children and nine grandsons. I was lucky that many people helped my family. Madeleine helped me and I look upon her as my sister. Israel is my home.

– Luba Alibash

I was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. After Hitler invaded in March 1939 I managed to escape with my mother and sister.

My father by luck was on a business trip in England and he obtained temporary visas for us. We lived through the 'blitz' in London.

At the end of the war we found no family or friend still living among those who had not managed to flee the slaughter. Married in 1955, my Hungarian/Czech husband lost his father, sisters and all but a few of his family among the Hungarian Jews who were sent at the very end of the war to Auschwitz.

We lived in London, often traveled to Israel – and finally made aliyah in 1990.

– Eva Schwarcz

Israel means a country to be able to live without the fear of being Jewish, with a feeling of belonging. I am a Hungarian Auschwitz survivor's daughter, English born, who married a prisoner of the Yom Kippur War.

We lived in England for 20 years raising our family before emigrating to Israel where I am proud that our children can raise our grandchildren in a totally Jewish environment.

– Marilyn Perl 



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