Deborah Tzarsaty, 44
Birthplace: Gidea Park
Aliya date: 1986
Occupation: mother, teacher, pet rescuer
Family status: married, two children
Deborah Tzarsaty, came here for a visit, planning to work on a kibbutz and learn Hebrew. It took a dog named Sydney to keep her from going back to England.
"We're a very close family," she says. "I was 18 and I wanted to leave home, but my parents wouldn't allow it - in our family, children stayed home until they married. By the time I was 19, I really wanted to go, so I begged my mother, this time telling her I wanted to come to Israel. Well, that was different! I came in 1981 and went to Kibbutz Yagur, where I stayed for 18 months.
"Then I met an American guy, and went with him to America, but realized that wasn't for me, so I came back to Israel. I had an uncle in Eilat, and he'd opened a mini golf course with a restaurant. He offered me a job, so I came to Eilat. Three months later, a friend gave me a puppy. Even then, I didn't think Eilat was the place for me, and I was considering going back to England. But then I realized I couldn't. I'd never leave the dog, and I couldn't take him with me because of England's quarantine regulations.
"Right about that time, I met my husband, Nitzan, who was a waiter at my uncle's restaurant. We got our second dog, Sandy. It's really because of the dogs I've never left."
"I'm third-generation British," Tzarsaty says. "My uncle and I are here, the rest of the family is in England. I have a brother and a sister who married an American, all in England. I came from a solid Jewish background, and before I grew up, I was probably a Zionist. Now I think you can only be a true Zionist if you live outside the country."
"I was in and out of Israel, but didn't make aliya until 1986. I maybe wouldn't have done it then, either, except one day I decided to go with an English friend, David, when he went to the absorption center to check his status. The official asked me, 'So how long have you been coming to Israel?' I told him I'd been coming since 1967, when I was a kid. He said, 'You know, when you add up all these visits - two weeks here, three there - you'll lose your rights if you don't make aliya right now.'
"So I said, 'Okay, give me the papers.' I didn't spend any time thinking about becoming Israeli - I was just having a great time. It was when I met my husband that all that changed. Then I changed my name and did the whole thing.
"In those days, in Eilat, the Immigration Office had to mail all the papers to Beersheba for processing, so I gave them my British passport, my orange temporary ID card, all my other documents. They took it, and then I heard nothing at all. I pestered, but finally, after several months, I decided to telephone, which wasn't easy to do, either, to get a phone connection. After a lot of talk, they told me they'd had a fire in the Beersheba office, and all my papers were gone. I was officially a 'nobody' - the only thing I had was my marriage certificate. It finally got straightened out.
"Getting my British passport replaced is another story. In Eilat, people were selling their British passports for big money, so it took a long time to get a replacement."
Tzarsaty safeguarded her immigration rights, but ultimately, it didn't help much. "Just before we got married in 1989, I brought a lift - one box, which was all I was allowed. On one of my yearly trips to see my parents, I brought back a vacuum cleaner, drawers, a sewing machine and a few clothes. About a year and a half later, I got a letter from some organization, telling me I owed them money for the lift. They said I'd come from England, an affluent place, and there was no reason why I got what I did. They wanted money. I wrote back, saying I'd just gotten married, I didn't have a penny in my pocket, I was pregnant and we were struggling. They wrote back and said they were sorry, they'd made a mistake. What cheek! I think I got NIS 300 and that one box!
"I did use my immigrant rights for a car. The funny thing is, the cars come into the port in Eilat, but you have to go to Herzliya to pick it up. So they called, said my car was there - way up north - and I had to come right now. I told them my baby was due in two days, and there was no way I was giving birth on the Arava road. We finally worked it out.
"I've learned to fight, I'll say that. You have to, if you're going to survive here."
The Tzarsaty family - two teenage daughters, Corryn and Aimee, and lots of pets - live on the ground floor of a building constructed in 1963, which makes it one of the oldest buildings in town. "Five years ago, we finally got permission to build an extension," Tzarsaty says. "We added to our living quarters, and added three additional units. Two we rent out, and one I use for my teaching."
The garden is her own creation. "All the trees, everything planted here, can survive on half an hour of water in the mornings. Everything came from cuttings, except for a mango tree - in five years, we've gotten about four mangos. But in Eilat, everything is back to front. You plant in October, for the fruit to be picked in February and March. Everything dies in the summer, but winters are beautiful. Everything blooms then."
"We speak only English in the house - Aimee says her mother tongue is English. She has the most wonderful British accent, mostly from watching BBC Prime. We're big fans of EastEnders. My husband, who's half Iraqi and half Greek, speaks excellent English, too. He was a kibbutznik, and they had lots of English volunteers.
"My Hebrew? I went to ulpan when I was 19, although I did have to do the second level three times - but hey, I got through."
"We almost make it through the month. Living in Eilat is difficult - everything depends on tourism. Lots of businesses open, lots of them close. It's the tourist thing - you can have five really good years, and then five dead years. It only takes one bomb to stop the tourists. My husband is a builder, so he's the last to be affected by a lack of tourists, but eventually the drop-off gets to him, too. Then he's the last to come back.
"There's not much culture in Eilat, and we're a long way away from everything. There's not much for kids to do. But Eilat is growing - when I came, there were 25,000 people, now it's over 55,000. I work mornings for a money changer, and in the afternoon, I teach English. That's the work I really love, plus the animal strays I take in and rehouse. And bowling - my average is 149. I'm about the third-placed woman in the state."
"I believe in Jewish survival. I'm not observant."
"I'm Jewish. I'm Israeli and I'm British. I will never lose my Jewish heritage. It's very important to me. Twenty years ago, I didn't know what that meant. I thought being Jewish meant being a good girl, and not going to pubs. But I'm Israeli, too. When I got my ID, I went to my husband and said, 'Do I look Israeli now?' It was important to me."
"My husband and I want to buy a motor home, and travel around the world, or at least Europe, even though we don't think that will ever happen. We'd like to see our girls succeed and marry well. I'd like to have enough money to help more abandoned dogs and cats. One thing is for sure. I will always stay in Israel."
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