by Simon Griver
The essence of Israel’s development has been aliyah immigration of Jews from dozens of countries on every continent speaking over 100 different languages. They came from Russia before the revolution, from Germany and Austria fleeing the Nazis and from Poland, Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia out of the ashes of the Holocaust. They came from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and North Africa expelled by Arab anti-Zionism. They came from Latin America and Turkey fleeing cruel military juntas and from Iran fleeing the ayatollahs.
There has also always been a steady stream of immigrants from the Americas, Britain, France, Benelux and Scandinavia, South Africa and Australia immigrants motivated by Zionism and Judaism and the opportunity to re-build Zion.
Most recently they have come from the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Ethiopia. Since 1990 alone over 700,000 immigrants have reached Israel from the former Soviet Union. In May 1991 the largest number of newcomers to reach Israel in one day was recorded when 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to the country during Operation Solomon.
After half a century of independence, the various immigrant groups that make up Israel’s society are agreed on their commitment to the state’s essential values: a Jewish state in its ancient homeland, democratic governance, ongoing immigration and the attainment of peace with its neighbors. together with this, ethnic diversity is very much a part of Israel’s society, affecting all aspects of its cultural, religious and political life.
The following Israelis represent a cross-section of this ingathering of the exiles.
Yehudit Goren, 26, reached Israel from Vilnius, Lithuania. Yehudit, the former chairperson of the Lithuanian Union of Jewish Students, is taking a preparatory program so that she can study for an MBA at Tel Aviv University. “There are no Jews of my age left in Lithuania,” she laments, “and I do not want to assimilate. I am proud of my Jewish heritage and want to build a family in Israel that perpetuates it.”
Andrei Brodov reached Kiryat Shemona in May 1996 as katyusha missiles fired by Hizballah rained down on the town. “I wasn’t bothered,” he recalls. “Statistically the likelihood of being hit by a missile is more remote than being hit by the Mafia in Russia. Khazan, my home city,Êwas in 1996 like Chicago was in the 1930s.”
Brodov, 37, a graduate of the Khazan Aircraft College and a former fuselage construction engineer at the Tupolev aircraft manufacturing plant in Khazan, was offered a job, through the Jewish Agency’s Aliyah 2000 program, by an aviation company in Kiryat Shemona, which is designing and developing an innovative executive jet.
Dr. Floretta Aronovich reached Israel from Husi in northeastern Romania. She immigrated with her parents both out of despair at the economic and political situation in her native country and because, as a Jew, she was drawn to Israel where she feels at home. “Romania is so bankrupt,” she says, “that it broke my heart seeing so many patients die because basic medicines and equipment are not available.” In contrast, Dr. Aronovich, 33, is impressed by the quality of care offered at Rambam hospital in Haifa where she now works.
Gracia Abraham reached Israel from Syria via the United States with her husband Rahamim and daughter Frida. The Abrahams originally came from the village of Halam, near the Iraqi border. Gracia’s daughter Frida, 6, was born while she was in prison in Syria, held in solitary confinement for five months for trying to escape to Turkey in 1991 en route to Israel. “Giving birth for the first time is a frightening experience anyway,” says Abraham. “Doing it in a dark prison is horrific. I thought that I would suffocate from fear.”
George Lebovich was one of the leading playwrights in the former Yugoslavia. His plays such as “Searching the Ashes,” mainly dealing with his experiences in Auschwitz, have won him worldwide acclaim and have been performed throughout Western Europe and North America. Lebovich came to Israel from Belgrade after the breakup of Yugoslavia. “I always felt that I had no place in Yugoslavia,” he recounts. “I was a Yugoslav but I was not a Serb or a Croat. I was a Jew so I came to Israel.” Lebovich’s first play to be translated into Hebrew, “The Soldier and the Doll,” was performed in Tel Aviv’s Beit Lessin.
Michael Ablin immigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia. Less than a year after reaching Israel, the Ablins moved to Amnun, a community settlement in the Upper Galilee established in 1986. Today the couple own one and a half acres of greenhouses which grow roses for export to Europe. Using high-tech methods, including a computer-controlled environment, the Ablins can grow long-stem roses every 50 days. “After reaching Israel I visited an uncle on Kibbutz Geva in the north,” recalls Michael. “Almost immediately I fell in love with the idea of being a Galilee pioneer.”
Victoria Dolinsky reached Israel from Baku, Azerbaijan. “Baku was a beautiful city under the Soviet regime,” she recalls, “but then things changed. The war with Armenia brought bitterness, death and poverty.” Dolinsky is a journalist with Israel Radio’s Russian language service. She enjoys hosting feature and human interest programs and specializes in interviewing veteran Israelis, often in Hebrew, and relating their experiences and views to the Russian-speaking new immigrant community.
Galina Kasyansky immigrated to Israel from Moscow. A fashion designer with one of the country’s leading manufacturing and retail houses for young women’s clothes, she is a graduate of the Shenkar College of Textile and Fashion in Tel Aviv. Kasyansky, 30, recalls that it was her husband Yuli who persuaded her to make aliyah. “Looking back it was the right decision,” she insists. “It was a combination of anti-Semitism and love of our Jewish roots that made us leave.” Kasyansky’s long-term ambition is to open her own fashion design house.
Jonathan Kolber came to Israel from Canada to head a large investment firm set up by investors abroad. Since then it has become the largest investment firm in Israel, recently acquiring a controlling interest in Koor, the country’s biggest industrial conglomerate. Kolber, son of former Canadian Senator Leo Kolber, has taken advantage of the economic opportunities in Israel to give the company’s owners an excellent return on their investment. “Zionism for me means helping realize Israel’s enormous economic potential. The Israeli economy is still very strong,” he says, “and we expect to expand our activities in the coming decade.”
Eva Hoffmann, 50, immigrated to Israel from Budapest where she had established and owned one of Hungary’s largest computer education businesses. In Israel, she lectures on computer science at Ashkelon College and has recently set up a computer school for adults which trains office staff and computer technicians. She manages the company with one of her two daughters. Both her parents survived Auschwitz. “They were broken by the Holocaust and died young,” she says, “but my father taught me that whatever I do, I must be the best. He also taught me that as a Jew I would only feel at home in Israel. He was right.”
Dr. Yelena Luria immigrated from Riga, Latvia in the Soviet Union, during a period when most Soviet Jews were emigrating to the United States. “As Jews, there was only one possible destination when we decided to leave the Soviet Union. We did not want to swap one Diaspora for another. “A graduate of the Second Moscow Medical Institute, she worked as a microbiologist at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv before establishing her own start-up company. Located in the Gat High-Tech Center in Kiryat Gat, the company has developed a mouthwash which kills bacteria, thus preventing dental caries and gum disease. “We are conducting pre-clinical trials,” she explains, “and the results, at present, are very promising.”
Richard Klapholz came to Israel from Belgium. “I always felt at home in Israel,” he explains. “while in Belgium, even though I was born there, I was always considered a foreigner. “A computer marketing specialist, he has, since 1995, been marketing manager of a Tel Aviv-based enterprise which supports and services computer and data communication equipment. “Israel’s high-tech potential is remarkable,” he observes. “This must be one of the most computer-oriented societies in the world.” His company represents major manufacturers from the USA, Europe and the Far East and is the country’s leading expert in point-of-sale systems and also specializes in total system and turnkey solutions.
Daniel Brailovsky immigrated to Israel from Argentina and has represented three countries in international soccer. He played for the national youth team in Uruguay before his family moved to Argentina. In 1982 he helped Independiente win the Argentinian championships and was capped three times by Argentina. He moved to Maccabi Haifa in 1985 and represented Israel 20 times. “I have played in Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay and Israel,” says the attacking midfielder, ” but only Israel feels like home.” Today, at 38, he is the youth coach of Maccabi Haifa.
Artur Gurevich came to Israel from São Paulo, Brazil. A graduate in engineering, he works for a construction company supervising building projects in the center of the country.” Brazil has a wonderful Jewish community,” he says. “It broke my heart to leave my home in São Paulo. But I was even more in love with Israel. Brazil is great, but for me it’s not home. I feel a part of Israel, and wake up every morning really excited about the country. It’s great to see how much the country has developed over the past decade.” Gurevich lives in Petah Tikvah with his wife and three children.
Shlomo Molla reached Israel during Operation Moses. At age 16 he trekked 700 kilometers across Ethiopia and Sudan with friends from his native Gondar province. The fact that he had walked 30 kilometers to school as a boy had stood him in good stead for the arduous journey. He was reunited with his parents and 10 brothers and sisters after Operation Solomon in 1991. A graduate of Bar Ilan University’s School of Social Work, he is today the director of Kibbutz Ulpanim of the Jewish Agency for the northern region.
Yehudit Rosenthal immigrated to Israel from Zurich, Switzerland. A graduate of the Hebrew University’s School of Social Work, she is a leading speech therapist for organizations in Jerusalem and Rishon Lezion. Married with three children, she is also active within the Reform Judaism movement in Mevasseret Zion where she lives. “There is a spiritual vacuum among secular Israelis that the reform movement is capable of filling,” she comments. “In part we are helping to import to Israel some of the worthwhile developments from the Diaspora.”
Atalai Tadia, 33, immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. Today he lives in the town of Kiryat Gat, where he imports coffee from the highlands of Ethiopia. “The Ethiopian Jews here never got used to the taste of local coffee,” he comments. “They pine for the coffee that they drank back in their native land. Israelis are also acquiring a taste for Ethiopian coffee, so I am confident my business will succeed.” Tadia observes that coffee originated in Ethiopia, and Arab traders helped spread the drink to Europe. He notes that he can purchase coffee beans in Ethiopia for a third of the price of the beans imported from Latin America.
Karen Benzion immigrated from Sweden where she had worked as a photographer on a daily newspaper. In Israel she is a leading freelance press photographer based in Jerusalem who contributes to newspapers and magazines worldwide. “I feel that history is in the making,” she says, “and that I am documenting it with my camera. For a photographer there can be no more stimulating an assignment than Israel. The people enjoy being photographed too. There is never a dull moment.”
Itzik Moshe immigrated to Israel from Tbilisi, Georgia. He is currently a Keren Hayesod emissary in Canada and in recent years has worked in Georgia and Russia to bring Jews to Israel. “I have devoted my life to bringing the maximum number of Jews to Israel in the minimum amount of time.” Aliyah, he insists, is Israel’s top priority. With assimilation rampant throughout the Diaspora he feels that in a generation’s time many Jews around the world will be lost to both Israel and local Jewish communities.
Raymond Darmon was born in Oran, Algeria and made aliyah after graduating in mathematics from the University of Marseilles in France. Today he is sales manager for a Jerusalem-based high-tech firm which produces software and related hardware for identifying cars from afar. “Alongside the success in our aliyah we have had tragedies,” he explains. “Our son Michael was killed last year in a road accident while serving in the army.”
Dr. Nat Dinte was born in Australia and graduated from the Dental Faculty at the University of Sydney. After reaching Israel he worked for the Ministry of Health’s dental licensing department before setting up his own private clinics in Rishon Lezion and Netanya. “I came to help raise standards of dental health in Israel,” he says, “and over the past 20 years there has been an enormous improvement.” He remains active on several Ministry of Health committees. “Since settling in Israel I have also become a farmer,” he adds, speaking proudly of the orange groves near his home on Moshav Avihayil near Netanya. Dr. Dinte is married with three children.
Viktor Bubis immigrated to Israel from Kishinev, Moldava in the former Soviet Union. “My brother emigrated before me to Canada,” he recalls. “But as a Jew I felt strongly drawn to Israel.” He has taught physical education in high school for many years and is also chairman of the Hapoel Jerusalem athletics club. In recent years he has returned to the former Soviet Union to “head-hunt” talented Jewish athletes. His most successful recruit has been Danny Krasnov who reached the Olympic pole vaulting finals in Barcelona and Atlanta. Bubis is married with two children.
Yaakov Cohen settled on Kibbutz Tsuba near Jerusalem after immigrating to Israel from Paris, France. “It was a question of national identity,” he recalls. “Did I want to be French or Jewish? By coming to Israel I made a commitment to be Jewish.” Today Cohen manages the garage of the kibbutz. Originally set up to service the kibbutz’s fleet of cars, the garage was opened to the public about six years ago through the initiative of Cohen and is today a flourishing enterprise serving residents of Jerusalem’s western suburbs.
Eli Zamlane was brought to Israel as a small child from Kharkhov, Ukraine by his parents, who were refuseniks in the former Soviet Union. When Zamlane, 31, was working in the marketing department of a porcelain factory in Kiryat Ata near Haifa several years ago, he suddenly felt disillusioned. “My career was going very well,” he recalls. “But I felt that my life was very materialistic. I was just chasing after money. I needed something more idealistic in my life. My parents had fought for the right to come to Israel. What had become of Zionism?” Today Zamlane, a graduate of the Technion in Industrial Engineering, is the Jewish Agency’s youth emissary in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan. His wife Hagit teaches Hebrew there, too.
Flower Sillamon immigrated to Israel from Calcutta, India. Her family had originated in Iraq several centuries earlier, and because of the Jewish traditions she inherited from her family, her major aim in life after 1948 was to become part of the Jewish state herself. A divorcee with six children, she has worked as a chef in some of Jerusalem’s largest hotels, run her own Indian restaurant in Jerusalem, catered for large groups and lectured on Far Eastern cooking. “Israelis have responded very enthusiastically to kosher Indian cooking,” she says.
Rina Greenberg reached Israel from the Ukraine. “I grew up thinking of Israel as home, even though that was a dangerous attitude in the Soviet Union,” she recalls. She opened a cafe in the Galilee town of Karmiel, which soon became a favorite meeting place for newcomers from the former Soviet Union. In the early 1990s the cafe was the focus for volunteer help for the massive wave of new immigrants moving to Karmiel. Greenberg was so well-known and popular that it was suggested that she run for the city council in the 1994 municipal elections. “It had never occurred to me to become involved in politics,” she recalls. “I simply enjoy helping the needy.” Greenberg was elected and nominated as deputy mayor with responsibility for absorption.
Emma Angel was brought to Israel as a child from Beirut, Lebanon. “We got out before the civil war started,” she recalls. “We had always wanted to come to Israel but life was good in Beirut. But after the PLO was expelled to Lebanon from Jordan my father sensed that war was on the way. “Angel lives in Rishon Lezion where she works as a reception manager for the Kupat Holim Sick Fund.
Josef Maiman was born in Germany in 1946 and reached Israel in 1971 after graduating from Cornell University in the US with an MA in Economics. “I always knew that I had a lot to contribute to Israel’s economy.” His company, which started operations in 1976, initiates infrastructure projects worldwide and is also involved in financial services, cable TV and tourism. A subsidiary of his company is erecting a $1.3 billion oil refinery in Egypt – the first-ever major Israeli-Egyptian joint venture.
Sylvia Temkin immigrated from Monterrey, Mexico. Today she is the director of public relations for Youth Aliyah, the educational organization established to rescue Jewish children from Nazi Germany in 1936. Since then Youth Aliyah has educated over 300,000 youngsters, including Holocaust survivors and the children of disadvantaged immigrants. “Youth Aliyah succeeds because it combines educational excellence with a warm home, individual and group care and unique programs,” she explains. Temkin enjoys traveling worldwide to liaise with Youth Aliyah donors and lives in Mevasseret Zion with her husband Benny, a former MK who was also born >and raised in Mexico.
Rita Kleinstein known simply as Rita, is one of Israel’s most popular singers. Born in Teheran, she was brought to Israel when she was ten. Her songs combine eastern and western rhythms delivered with great passion. She has represented Israel in the Eurovision song contest and such albums as “Milestones” and “Great Love” have earned her gold disks. “It is very sad to see what has happened in Iran since we have left,” she says. “But despite all I have a fond place in my heart for the Persian people.”
Tal Brody did not return home to Trenton, New Jersey after competing for the US in the Maccabi Games. The basketball star instead signed on at Maccabi Tel Aviv and captained the Israeli champions to its first European Cup triumph in 1977. “We are on the map,” was Brody’s famous comment after the victory. And indeed, Brody, 54, believes in the importance of sport for putting Israel on the map. “Sporting prowess is one of the most effective ways of showing you’re around and winning popular support,” he says. Today Brody runs an insurance agency and has other business interests.
Malcolm Admon grew up in Swansea, Wales. “Such a tiny Jewish community was clearly not viable for the future,” he explains. “If I was already leaving my birth- place then Israel was the only destination for me. “A law graduate from Manchester University in England, he preferred to try his hand in the “schmatte” trade rather than at pleading cases. He founded a chain of casual fashion stores in 1978 which has expanded to an empire that includes 25 stores and annual sales of $4 million. “The consumer boom in Israel of the 1990s and the opening of shopping malls,” he explains, “have enabled us to open branches throughout the country.”
Yehudit Salama was brought to Israel as a baby from Turkey. “My parents said that they looked at me,” she says, “and decided that Israel was the only country they wanted to raise me in.” The family settled in Or Akiva near Hadera where she still lives today. Married with her first child, she owns a photography store in the center of town which she opened in 1992. “My first love is actually being a photographer,” she explains. “I’d close the store down tomorrow if I could. But I need the store. That’s how customers find me in order to photograph a wedding or a bar-mitzvah.”
Esther Menashe reached Israel from northern Argentina. “Where I grew up the people and the countryside are beautiful,” she says, “but it wasn’t home. Israel for me was always home even though I’d never visited the country.” A graduate of the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology in architecture, she is today a senior city planner with the Karmiel municipality . “I have seen this city grow over the past few years into one of the most beautiful and best-planned in Israel,” she says. Menashe commutes to work every day from Haifa, but intends moving with her family to Karmiel in the near future to enjoy the fresh air and inspiring landscapes of the Galilee countryside.
Dr. Serrouya Geula, 46, reached Israel as a teenager from Morocco. A graduate of the Hebrew University – Hadassah Faculty of Dental Medicine, she lives in Jerusalem because as a child that was always her dream. “The return of the Jewish people to its own land is a miracle,” she insists, “but the return to Jerusalem is the miracle of miracles.” She has a dental clinic in Jerusalem’s Old City, serving both Arab and Jewish patients.
Dr. Ian Froman had already played for South Africa’s Davis Cup tennis team when he immigrated. “I fell in love with the vibrancy and openness of Israeli society after I visited in 1961,” he recounts. Between 1967 and 1973 he captained Israel’s Davis Cup team. A dentist by profession, he forsook drilling and filling to devote himself full-time to tennis. He conceived the Israel Tennis Centers program, which has since brought tennis to thousands of youngsters and created world-class players like Amos Mansdorf. In 1989 he was awarded the Israel Prize for his outstanding contribution to youth and sport in Israel.
Ruth Eilat immigrated from Auckland, New Zealand. She recalls that it took her more than two months to reach Israel by boat. For the past 19 years she has worked for the Ministry of Tourism and is currently director of information responsible for liaising with consulates and Israel government tourist offices around the world. “We supply a lot of our information over the Internet,” she says. “Cyberspace has enabled us to convey more information, more quickly to more places.”
Professor Alfredo Rabello was born in Italy and graduated in law from the University of Bologna before immigrating to Israel. He became a lecturer at the Hebrew University in 1972 and a professor in 1975. An expert in Roman Law, one of his major missions, as director of the Matz Institute of Research into Jewish Law, was to recommend appropriate Jewish laws for legislation in the Knesset. “Israeli law is based on British and Ottoman laws,” he observes. “We have been seeking to introduce appropriate Jewish laws to bring Israeli law more into line with Jewish tradition.”
Zvika Pik was eleven years old when he came to Israel from his native Poland. “We stayed in Italy for a year en route to Israel,” recalls the famous singer, “and in later years that influenced my music.” During the 1970’s Pik was something of a bête noir with the Israeli establishment a rebellious rock and roll star with long hair. A decade later, the long hair remained, but Pik transformed himself into a crooner of romantic ballads admired by many of the Israelis who had initially shunned him as a decadent influence.
Daniel Glick immigrated to Israel from Czechoslovakia when he was a child. “My parents could not remain in Europe,” he explains, “after what Europe had done to the Jews.” An officer in the IDF reserves, today he is the managing director of a Haifa-based manufacturer of building materials such as aggregates, ready-mixed concrete, asphalt, lime, marble and building blocks. Under Mr. Glick’s helm the company has invested greatly in new production plants and sophisticated manufacturing technologies. Married with four children, he studied abroad, graduating in engineering from the University of California at San Diego.
Hilda Guttman immigrated to Israel from Romania. “I wanted to help build my own country,” she recounts, “not somebody else’s nation.” A graduate of the Hebrew University with a masters’ degree in physical chemistry, she is director of the Technological Requests Division within the Investment Center at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. She is also director of the Hebrew University’s Division of Polymer and Textile Chemistry. “High-tech offers Israel a wonderful opportunity for economic growth,” she insists. Last year the Ministry’s Investment Center approved loans and grants of more than $1.3 billion as well as land allocations for factories.
Ida Fink reached Israel from Baraz, Poland. She has written novels and short stories in Polish which have been translated into English and Hebrew. They deal with her experiences in the Holocaust, when she survived disguised as a non-Jewish farm laborer. “The only stories I can write are autobiographical,” she explains. “Reality was stronger and more absurd than anything the imagination could create.” Today Fink is a widow who lives in Holon near Tel Aviv, close to her daughter and grandchildren. Over 70, she is still writing, and her latest novel, “Traces,” was recently translated from Polish to English.
Yossi Dahan came to Israel as a teenage orphan from Morocco. “I migrated with the flock,” he recalls, “and as a Jew it was only natural. We were coming home.” After leaving the army in 1967 he bought three second-hand cars and started renting them out in his home town of Ashkelon. With the profits he purchased two more cars. Today he owns the country’s largest rental company with a fleet of 4,000 vehicles. “The big international companies charged tourists hefty prices,” he recalls. “Through direct marketing, leaving out travel agents and commissions, we brought down prices.”
Albert Papoushado immigrated from Egypt following the Suez crisis when he was 27. A graduate of economics from the University of Cairo, he worked for many years in the petrochemicals industry, becoming CEO of a large petrochemicals company, before assuming his current position as President of the Israel-Egypt Chamber of Industry and Commerce in 1994. “The peace process is irreversible,” he says, “and trade between us and our neighbors will consolidate that process. There is still enormous potential to be tapped in joint ventures and import-export.”
Armond Maman reached Israel from Morocco as a small child. “Our family was given land in the middle of nowhere,” he says. “But it was our land in our country and we had no complaints.” His dream, when growing up on Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra in the Upper Galilee, was always to have his own winery. Today he is the founder and proprietor of a small winery which produces 100,000 bottles a year for local consumption. “I remember watching one of Israel’s leading boutique wineries,” he recalls, “fermenting and bottling my grapes and then getting over $30 a bottle for them and thinking “this is crazy, there’s no reason why I can’t do this myself.” Known for the quality of his Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, he is investing in a much larger winery in order to increase production and enter the export market.
Professor Alfred Drukker, who came to Israel from the Netherlands, is a leading pediatrician at Sha’are Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. “It was my honor to be able to help build my country,” he stresses. A graduate of the University of Utrecht, he is a specialist in renal physiology and chronic renal failure in childhood. “We are particularly proud of our kidney transplant abilities at the hospital,” he explains, “but due to lack of donors, so many children must remain on dialysis for so long.” Prof. Drukker is also an expert in hypertension in children.
Prof. Nissim Garti was brought to Israel by his parents from Plovdiv, Bulgaria. “My parents were lifelong Zionists,” he says, “committed to building the Jewish state.” With a doctorate in applied chemistry from the Hebrew University, he was appointed a Lecturer in the Department of Applied Science and Technology in 1977. He currently heads the Graduate School of Applied Science and Technology and also has business interests. “Our biggest achievement was the development of SSL,” he explains, “an additive which helps preserve bread.”
Yosef Tzoref reached Israel from Iraq after being released from prison. He had served a three-year sentence in his native Baghdad for Zionist activity. For most of his life, he worked for the Israel Electric Corporation, leading construction crews that built many of the country’s power stations, most recently the Rotenberg power station in Ashkelon. “But the proudest moment of my life,” he recalls, “was when I was chosen to light one of the twelve torches on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day in 1989.”
David Kapah immigrated as a six-year-old child from Yemen. “My parents believed that one day they would be taken to Jerusalem,” he recalls. “And so it came to pass that Operation Magic Carpet brought the entire Yemenite community here.” Today he is the Chief Executive Officer of the country’s ninth largest commercial bank. “Although we are defined as a commercial bank,” he hastens to add, “we do not lend money to the public but rather offer banking services to local authorities and their corporations.” Kapah, who is married with four children, has an MBA from Tel Aviv University and is a captain in the IDF reserves. He has many public positions but takes particular pride in being chairman of the Inbal Ethnic Arts Center, which perpetuates Yemenite Jewish culture.
Arye Comey reached Israel from Santiago, Chile. “As one of three Jews in my elementary-school class,” he recalls, “I didn’t want to be like the refugee children, who were taunted by the others for being without a homeland. I wanted to live in my own homeland. After I arrived I spent eight years on kibbutz,” he adds. “But I spent most of my working life as a civil servant.” In addition to his work with the Interior Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs he has also written the first-ever Hebrew thesaurus, the largest Hebrew-Spanish-Hebrew dictionary, a Hebrew-English-Hebrew dictionary and works of poetry in Hebrew and Spanish.
Emmanuel Gill was born in Shanghai, China, where his parents had fled from Stalin’s oppression in the Soviet Union. He was brought to Israel when he was ten years old. A graduate of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, he helped make Israel a leading high-tech manufacturer of medical equipment. “A group of us felt that a career in industry was more worthwhile than remaining in academia,” he recalls. Gill, who has served as CEO of one company and chairman of another, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Technion in 1994.
Sami Michael came to Israel from Iraq when he was 23. One of the country’s leading writers and social commentators, his books “Refuge” and “A Handful of Hope” have been translated into English. His book “More Equal Than Others” discussed the immigration to Israel of the various immigrant groups. “I reached the conclusion that there was no intentional discrimination practiced against any groups,” he insists. “Israeli culture is neither Ashkenazi or Sephardi but comprises Jewish and western influences.”
Prof. Zvi Even-Paz reached Israel on the day that independence was declared. Born Harry Goldstone in Leeds, England, he had expected to wade ashore together with his wife and daughter as illegal immigrants. “Instead we came through a hastily erected custom shed in Tel Aviv,” he recalls. “At the time Egyptian fighter planes were bombing the city.” Prof. Even-Paz is today an emeritus professor of Hadassah Hospital’s Department of Dermatology specializing in the medicinal properties of the Dead Sea.