By Hillel Kuttler
The previous night’s out-of-the-blue rainfall had soaked their Sukkah downstairs, so Jonathan and Sarah Kemp instead greeted a breakfast guest at the door of their third-floor apartment in Nahariya.
As an English teacher, Sarah was off for Sukkot from the high school where she works in the nearby town of Kfar Vradim. Jonathan’s mornings usually are flexible, working from home as he does in marketing for a U.S.-based company, TotallyJewishTravel.com.
Not that things weren’t busy that morning, anyway. Three of the Kemps’ four children – ranging in age from 15 to 24 – still live at home, and Sarah’s parents had just arrived for a visit from Manchester, England, and were staying at a hotel a block away.
The Kemps have put down roots in Nahariya, where they moved in mid-2016 after spending their first two post-Aliyah years in Ma’alot, another northern town. Jonathan, 52, and Sarah, 48, attend a variety of religion classes and participate in a monthly English-speakers’ book club.
Their settling in this region dates back to Sarah’s participation in a year-long Habonim Dror program three decades ago. She “fell in love with the north of Israel, with the physical beauty,” Sarah explains, as she spears some sliced peaches and persimmons from a plate on the table.
The couple kept the Israel flame burning throughout the decades of living in Manchester, thanks to their children’s Zionist-oriented school and the Israeli principal they befriended there.
Little by little, “it became a more concrete idea,” says Jonathan. Adds Sarah: “We knew, as the kids got older, that they’d come here [to live]. We wanted to live here, rather than retire here.”
When their eldest child, Abigail, left to study at a Jerusalem seminary, she told her parents that a perfect window for the family’s Aliyah would open two years later, when her two brothers would be completing high school and middle school. So, in the summer of 2012, Jonathan and Sarah came to Israel for five days to investigate four northern communities: Katzrin, Karmiel, Ma’alot and Nahariya.
They visited Israel twice more before deciding on Ma’alot. Later on, with their son Joseph serving in the Israel Defense Forces and Abigail living near Tel Aviv, convenience dictated that they move from Ma’alot to a place closer to a train station. That would eliminate an extra hour’s travel for Joseph and Abigail when coming home for Shabbat. Thus, Nahariya.
Through what Sarah calls “the ups and downs” of life, they’ve persevered. Even in what Jonathan says was “the lowest” experience – being hospitalized for several weeks after sustaining injuries in a bicycling accident in Ma’alot – “there’s never been a point” when they considered moving back to England.
Bicycling promises a more uplifting experience soon. The Kemps have already booked a hotel room in Jerusalem for early May so they can attend the opening stages of the prestigious Giro d’Italia bike race.
Jonathan is a big fan of the sport. Several times a week, he rides his bicycle north to the border at Rosh Hanikra, about seven miles away, or south along the boardwalk near the end of which are outdoor aerobics machines where he can work out.
“I’ve grown to love the north,” says Jonathan. “We have so much on our doorstep here.”
As might be expected, the children’s friends come from all backgrounds. The parents’ social circle is nearly all English-speaking – a situation that’s beginning to change.
“It’s getting there, slowly,” says Sarah. “We’re definitely getting the feel of Israeli life.”