By: Hillel Kuttler
On a cool November evening, Ari Teger has dropped by the home of his friends, Ben and Rachel Gould, on a slope in Yokneam Illit. The town, the trio quickly points out, is not to be confused with the adjacent moshavaf Yokneam. Ari, 33, works as a civil engineer for a cement company. Ben, 41, has a job in marketing. Rachel, 39, is a Tel Aviv University Ph.D. student and a community volunteer and organizer. The Goulds will soon be moving into a house they’ve bought nearby that’s under construction.
Rachel Gould (native of Portland, Oregon; immigrated to Israel in 2010): We made Aliyah to Haifa. After two and a half years, we were looking to get out of the city. We moved to Yokneam in March 2013. [As to why they chose Yokneam Illit, specifically:] There weren’t that many Anglos.
Ben Gould (Rachel’s husband): Some [English-speaking Olim] came out of the woodwork and followed us here. It’s a relatively clean and well-kept city. The fresh air, the views – every time you turn around here, there’s a view of something. It’s small, but not a tiny-little village. There are virtually no traffic lights.
Ari Teger (Detroit; 2005): It’s small, but you have all the services. You don’t have to get in the car for every single thing and drive.
Rachel: It hit us with a very good feeling, very visceral. It’s quiet, especially on Shabbat.
Ari: We wanted access to the center [of the country]. We wanted to be close to Haifa. We wanted city services, something that was not overwhelming and not Anglo. Yokneam has big spaces, it has greenery, it has hikes. You can go mountain biking. There are [bike] paths. The hi-tech center gives job opportunities for people.
You and Rachel have mentioned the lack of Anglos as being important. Why is that?
Ari: There’s some critical mass where it becomes a clique and a community within a community. It’s detrimental to integration for the kids.
Ben: Our son [Micah, 10] is the only native English speaker in his school.
Rachel: We made Aliyah when our boys were almost 5 and almost 3, so they went right into school, and that was that. Because it was before first grade, they had no academic benefits, no Ulpan, nothing. It was sink or swim. They all swim.
Ari: Our kids were born here, and we speak only English in the house. They were immersed in both [English and Hebrew], from the beginning. On visits to the States, our kids will walk up to strangers and speak with them in Hebrew, because it’s what they know: You speak Hebrew outside.
Rachel: My Hebrew hit a plateau. We had tons of friends in Haifa, and the default was English, which was great, because it was a soft landing. We thought of moving to Zichron [Yaakov], but I thought we could throw ourselves here and make a lot of mistakes – but you’d get somewhere. It’s a really different interacting with Anglos who’ve been here a long time and have integrated into society.
What are some fun things to do in the area when you’re off work, like on a Friday?
Rachel: The beach – Hof Dor, Kibbutz Dor’s beach.
Ari: We tend to go to springs or hikes. There’s Maayan El-Roi’ at Tzomet HaTishbi. It’s a 10-minute drive. There’s a pool, shade. People fish sometimes. There’s Nachal HaShofet, on the other side of the moshava.
Ben: There are probably 100 km. of bike trails in the Ramat Menashe Park, [a biosphere reserve,] right behind us. There are open fields and a herd of sheep that live there.
Rachel: There’s Ya’ar HaRakafot: the Cyclamen Forest. It’s a hillside and a half-kilometer loop trail. It’s very kid-friendly, because they built steps into the hillside. We’re not far from Zichron and Ramat HaNadiv, the botanical garden and a massive nature reserve [near Zichron]. The Israel Trail cuts through there as well.
Ari: There’s the meat truck, near Binyamina, where they smoke meats. You go there for a sandwich on Fridays, and it’s delicious. It’s by the Tishbi Winery. There’s often jazz music there. There’s also a very nice park in Zichron, with a fountain.
Rachel: Part of the appeal of Yokneam is that it’s so quiet. The city has plans to build a small theater for non-mainstream movies. On Sunday or Monday night, there’s a big Israeli folk dancing group at the Matnas [community center]. You know it, because you can’t get a parking spot.