Arrivals: From Columbus, Ohio to Jerusalem

At 27, Mati Gill has already accomplished much for the State of Israel.

September 25, 2007 10:03
mati gill 88 224

mati gill 88 224. (photo credit: Netanya Hoffman)


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Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio Aliya Date: June 30, 1992 Occupation: Bureau chief of Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter Family Status: Single with a girlfriend At 27, Mati Gill has already accomplished much for the State of Israel. He has served as an army officer for six years, has held several positions in Jewish and Zionist education and now works as the bureau chief of Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter. FAMILY HISTORY His father came to Israel for a summer when he felt that the anti-Vietnam War movement was turning against Israel. This visit turned him on to Zionism and led him to a career in Jewish community services. Gill's mother had a similar upbringing, and they sent their children to a Conservative day school. When Gill's father was offered a professional promotion, they decided instead to take a chance and follow their dream of moving here. BEFORE ARRIVAL Gill was 12 at the time and was against coming for the trial year that his parents had planned. He did not want to spend his bar mitzva year in a new school, making new friends and missing out on the extravaganza-like party that was common in America. But as soon as the family arrived, he knew he didn't want to go back. UPON ARRIVAL Gill describes that first year as "phenomenal," explaining that his parents emphasized the importance of being social, traveling and having fun, rather than making their three children study hard during their trial year. He was part of a documentary on bar mitzvas and got to see the country, meet many different people and see all kinds of bar mitzvas. He says the day-to-day things were what made him sure he wanted to stay. He liked not being a minority anymore, and the concept of being able to date any girl he met because they were all Jewish. He also felt safer here than in America, where a kid couldn't walk to the corner by himself after 6 p.m. He had to pinch himself in the mornings to believe the bus was passing by the Old City walls on the way to school. He felt that life here was of a higher quality and more meaningful than it had been in America. When the year was over and their parents asked Gill and his siblings whether they wanted to return to the States, he stubbornly insisted that they move here permanently. In high school, he got involved with the Noam Conservative youth group. During a trip to Poland in 11th grade, he looked around Treblinka and decided it was going to be his mission to work for the safety and security of the country. He served in the army for six years and then studied law at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. He is currently finishing a degree in law and government. LIVING ENVIRONMENT He lived on Kibbutz Misgav Am in the North when he was an officer and then in Tel Aviv for four years. He returned to Jerusalem last summer for his current job. He lives with his girlfriend in a three-and-a-half-room apartment with two balconies in Baka. WORK AND ROUTINE When he was recommended for his current position, Gill wasn't sure he wanted to accept it because he was so happy in the field of education he had gotten into through Noam. But when a friend told him that this was an opportunity to really learn about the country and see it in a way that he'd never get to experience otherwise, he took the job. Dichter defines Gill's responsibilities as being his shadow; the bureau chief must always be a step ahead of him. He is involved in everything Dichter is involved in and helps with organization, advising, preparation, follow-through and follow-up. Gill is in school a few times a week; he says that like in any profession, you learn to be more efficient at being a student, and after the first couple of years it starts taking less time and effort. He works about 70 hours per week. His routine involves a lot of juggling, and he has given up sleeping and working out as much as he would like to. CIRCLE AND HOBBIES His friends are mostly Hebrew-speakers from work, the army or school. His girlfriend is American, and his circle has widened to include her Anglo friends. He has little time for hobbies, but his interests include sports, running, movies and reading. Although he makes frequent treks across the country for work, he tries to travel for pleasure as well, both here and abroad. He also enjoys following American sports, although the hours are difficult because of the time difference. LANGUAGE Gill knew some basic Hebrew from his day school education in Columbus. He was thrown into a sink-or-swim atmosphere when he started school and learned quickly because most of his new friends were Hebrew-speakers. He feels equally fluent in both languages, though he prefers to read in English. He feels he will probably always be 90 percent fluent in both. His Hebrew will never be perfect because he grew up speaking English, and his English will never be as good as it would have been had he attended high school and college in America. Though the downside is that he will never be 100% fluent in both languages, he prefers this to knowing one language perfectly. He says that being an oleh is a huge advantage, because in most fields a company would prefer to hire someone with good English and weak Hebrew over someone with the opposite language skills. RELIGION Gill sees faith as a personal issue and does not affiliate himself with a particular denomination. He keeps the traditions such as holidays and Shabbat, and enjoys a feeling of spirituality through attending services at synagogue. He appreciates the importance and the meaning of Shabbat as a day of rest and a break from day-to-day life. IDENTIFICATION He seems himself as an American Israeli. Because Israel is such a young country and many Israelis weren't actually born here, he is just as Israeli as the rest of them. His familial roots and culture are American, just as others' roots are from Morocco, Russia or Poland. PLANS Hoping to continue working in the public sphere, Gil says he feels good working for something he believes in. "I'm a hard worker, so it's good to know at the end of the day that I'm doing something good." He says he will probably spend a few years studying in the States, but that his life will be here where he hopes to raise a family. To propose an immigrant for an 'Arrivals' profile, please send a one paragraph e-mail to:

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