New immigrants from Ukraine make aliya, December 30, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For Olim, Israel provides a small playing field that is ripe for innovation.
New trains are being built to connect Israel’s major cities. Nonprofits are launched that help Israelis live more fulfilling lives. Natural resources are still being discovered throughout Israel’s land.
Before Bini Zomer made Aliyah from Maryland in 2010, he worked as a lobbyist for AIPAC, and focused on enhancing the cooperation on energy projects between Israel and the US. Then, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime. He was hired by Noble Energy, a US-based oil and gas exploration company, which is responsible for finding huge natural oil reserves off of Israel’s coast.
As the Director of Corporate Affairs, Bini feels blessed to be working and contributing to a venture that is so important to Israel’s economy and environment-- and which has the potential to reverse Israel’s energy dependency.A Small Land of Opportunity
Like Bini, Rachelle Amar also discovered that she was able to fill a need in Israel. After relocating from New Jersey to Tel Aviv, Rachelle realized that she didn’t know where to buy the things that she wanted on a daily basis. She stopped people on the street, she posted in Facebook groups, and she asked friends for help. But these activities took time, and often didn’t provide her with the right answers.
So, Rachelle developed iMustHavit, an application which connects people to the products and services they need in nearby locations within seconds. With its initial launch in Israel, iMustHavit will prove most valuable for Olim and tourists, as well as local businesses, which may often be overlooked.
“It’s really encouraging to be around so many people in Israel who are taking such big risks,” said Rachelle. “I also grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, which first gave me the courage to make Aliyah and then to turn everything upside down and go for it.”
When Rabbi Joel and Aviva Tessler made Aliyah from Maryland, they weren’t sure what their next move in Israel would be, but they were open to new ideas. Rabbi Tessler had served as a congregational rabbi for 30 years, but was 15 years too young to retire. “We wanted to work and contribute and make a difference,” said Rabbi Tessler.
The couple was no stranger to getting things done in Israel. While living in the US, Aviva created Operation Embrace, an organization that offers assistance to injured survivors of terror in Israel. As part of Operation Embrace’s multifaceted activities that have helped over 6,000 families, the nonprofit has purchased a laptop for a man who lost both of his legs, organized cooking therapeutic groups for traumatized women, and created college funds for injured children.
Their daughter and son-in-law had recently launched Saphira Hair, a company that infuses the minerals of the Dead Sea into hair products--something that the many existing Dead Sea skin product companies were not doing.
They asked their parents to join the company, representing the hair products at international trade shows and connecting them with vendors throughout the world. The Tesslers were thrilled to market the Israeli-made products and to spread the benefits of the Dead Sea.
Now the product is sold in 20 countries and 15 US states.
The Tesslers have been pleasantly surprised to find that the people at trade shows have flocked to them because of Israel’s great reputation in the world of beauty and cosmetics. “People have been so kind to us, sharing how much they love Israel and the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Tessler. “Before moving to Israel, my focus was on my local community of 500 families. Israel has opened my eyes to the world.”Life Full of Meaning
Like the Tesslers, many Olim come to Israel hoping to make a difference in the land they love. Doing what they’re passionate about in Israel is the ultimate goal.
When Julie Seltzer, a scribe, made Aliyah, she knew that she was an anomaly in Israel. As a non-Orthodox Jewish woman who handwrites Torah scrolls and mezuzot, she is often met with curiosity.
During her workshops for children through Tali, a Jewish curriculum in secular Israeli schools, she loves that she is able to show her students an example of a woman doing this work.
“By portraying a broader spectrum of Jewish identity, I am showing Israeli children that there are many ways to connect to Judaism,” said Julie.
For Gary and Rose Scharlat, it was a dream come true to join their children in Israel. But Gary, who grew up on a farm and continued gardening on his property in New Jersey, also hopes to bring his knowledge of sustainable planting methods to Israel. He recently joined a business group to flesh out his ideas, and plans to teach young people about hydroponics, aquaponics, and vertical gardening.
“That’s why we’re here,” said Gary. “We’re supposed to make Israel grow.”