By: Hillel Kuttler
Rafi and Rebecca Spiewack and their two sons made Aliyah in July 2017, and are happy where they live in Yokneam Illit, a town southeast of Haifa that’s adjacent to a moshava also named Yokneam.
The town is where they may end up settling permanently – but first, they’ve planned another life detour.
That involves living on Kibbutz Ramot Menashe, just a 10-minute drive away. It’s where Rebecca’s paternal grandmother, a founder of the kibbutz, resides. The Spiewacks may be able to buy a house in Ramot Menashe on very favorable terms, and first want to get a better sense of the community from the inside, after having visited on numerous occasions.
Their second choice would be Yokneam Illit. The Spiewacks, who moved to Israel from the Boston suburb of Marblehead, had planned to use their rented, ground-floor apartment as a base to investigate other places in the North they’d been considering living in, like Tivon and Kibbutz Hanaton. Then, the golden opportunity at Ramot Menashe developed – just as they were falling for Yokneam Illit.
The little things, along with the big ones, have drawn them deeper into the town, like the technician installing their washing machine who insisted on purchasing a television for the Spiewacks because he considered it important that they watch the daily news. “He was upset we wouldn’t let him buy one for us,” said Rafi.
In the supermarket, a shopper, hearing Rebecca addressing the boys in English, said, “Thank you for coming [to Israel].”
During a short pilot trip a month before making Aliyah, the town’s education director made herself available on short notice to assist them; the Spiewacks decided on a religiously pluralistic program for their preschoolers. One family offered them their car to borrow; others volunteered to babysit. The abundant parks offer ample playing opportunities for the littlest Spiewacks.
“Yokneam was an obvious choice for us to start off in,” Rebecca said. “We were surprised by how much we like it here.”
Two minutes later, she went a step further.
“We love it here,” she said.
Added to the help extended by Nefesh B’Nefesh in lining up Ulpan classes for Rebecca and Rafi, and members of Facebook groups answering questions, and “it’s been endless support,” Rafi said.
He and Rebecca had met in Israel during Young Judaea’s Year Course, in 2004–05. Individually and as a couple, they visited the country every year since.
As to living in Israel, “We always thought: One day, one day,” Rebecca said.
“We’re just connected to Israel. There’s an atmosphere here. You feel good here,” she explained.
While going to Ulpan, Rebecca teaches English on-line to people in China. Rafi will soon be looking to resume his career in sales. They expect work opportunities to be plentiful, because the rail line to both Tel Aviv and Haifa is a 20-minute drive from home.
Home, even a temporary one, needs warmth – and for the Spiewacks, that meant that three other Olim in their household were Gimel, a miniature schnauzer; and cats Samson and Delilah. They never considered leaving their beloved pets behind.
Home also means art. The Spiewaks sold all their furniture, and brought to Israel only what fit into 13 suitcases. That included all the kids’ books and toys. For the adults: the vivid paintings of Cuba, of sunflowers and of a New England lighthouse that adorn their dining and living room walls.
“We brought the things that made our home, our home,” Rafi said. “And Israel’s our home.”