Aliya profile: Focused on the good

“It’s a wonderful, dynamic country,” Anthony says. Adds Maureen, “There’s always something to argue about.”

July 10, 2019 18:08
Aliya profile: Focused on the good

ANTHONY, 79, AND MAUREEN, 76, MARCOVITCH. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Anthony and Maureen Marcovitch are the picture of British punctuality, organization and efficiency – so much so, that as our interview began (on time, naturally), Maureen handed me a typed, neatly stapled, three-page biographical summary of their lives. Forty minutes later, as our meeting concluded, it was clear that these very qualities have not only served them well in their own lives, but in the lives of those whom they have helped and influenced since their aliyah 29 years ago.

Anthony Marcovitch was born in London in 1940 during the Blitz. Anthony and his mother and sister were evacuated to England’s South Coast to escape the Nazi bombings, while his father remained in London, serving as a fireman. Growing up, Anthony was a most enterprising youth, working for a Hungarian Jewish timber importer and accompanying his boss on many visits to his clients. Shortly thereafter, his boss suffered a heart attack and asked Anthony to continue on his behalf. Anthony, who was 15 at the time, left school, and, as he wryly says, “began the University of Life.” He became very successful, eventually starting his own business, importing gifts and novelties, and buying property and converting them into warehouses, shops and apartments.
Anthony and Maureen, who had known each other since they were teens, were married in 1962. Maureen had been active in the Federation of Zionist Youth, Britain’s oldest pluralistic Zionist youth group. Anthony’s aunt and uncle were among the founders of Kibbutz Lavi and moving to Israel was always in the back of their minds. The couple had three children, and in 1985, after visiting their eldest son in Israel who was on a hachshara (preparation) program, they decided on a five-year plan for making aliyah. 
With their typical efficiency, Anthony and Maureen arrived in Netanya five years later, accompanied by their youngest son, then nine, to the apartment that they had purchased in Netanya. By then, their two older children were already living in Israel. 
At the age of 45, Anthony was looking forward to a productive and relaxing retirement. “I had retired. I was only interested in doing social work or voluntary work,” Marcovitch says. “I went straight to Laniado hospital to volunteer my services. I didn’t care what I did. I wanted to feel like I was doing something for Israel. When I got there, without even looking up, the man in charge of volunteer services said to me, ‘Come back in 20 years. I’ve got too many people on my waiting list.’” 
Undeterred, Marcovitch volunteered at the Bet Elazraki Children’s Home in Netanya, where he tutored English and taught computer skills. He also worked with the British Olim Society, helping new immigrants adjust to life in Israel. He eventually became a successful and highly sought-after substitute teacher in the Tel Aviv school system, teaching English and computers. The other teachers were impressed with his ability to control a classroom full of unruly children and asked him for the secret of his success. Marcovitch explains that the novelty of his British formality allowed him to gain their respect. “I never allow them to call me Anthony,” he explains. “It was always ‘Mr. Marcovitch.’ Secondly, I was already a mature adult, so they had a little more respect for me.”
Marcovitch was then offered a position to act as a negotiator for a Lloyd’s of London broker between large companies, museums and art galleries in Israel, and the underwriters of Lloyd’s of London. He worked in this position for 12 years, until the frequent travel throughout the country took its toll. He then accepted a position in Netanya as an insurance agent, where he has worked for the past 16 years, managing the needs of more than a thousand English-speaking clients. Maureen explains that her husband has been more than an insurance agent. “He’s been almost like a social worker for the British in Netanya. Many of them don’t speak Hebrew, and as soon as they hear Hebrew, they turn off. He helps them in all sorts of things – not only insurance.” 
Anthony shows no signs of slowing down, continues to work full time and is grateful to his wife for her participation in his career. “My wife has worked me ever since we’ve been married in whatever business I’ve been in. Whatever I’ve done, she’s been my support,” he says. Laughing, Maureen retorts, “He’s the front man. I do all the grunt work.”
Anthony and Maureen enjoy the frenetic pace of life in Israel. “It’s a wonderful, dynamic country,” he says. Adds Maureen, “There’s always something to argue about.” Completing the thought, Anthony says, “We wake up every morning with a feeling of excitement.”
With typical British reticence, he refuses to directly criticize anything about his adopted country, saying, “I refuse to see any bad in Israel or Israelis. If someone cuts me off on the road, I say that maybe they’re in a hurry because they’ve got to get somewhere.” However, when the question is phrased differently as what suggestions he might offer to improve life in Israel, Anthony readily responds that “Israelis should be more polite. Culture is not just going to an opera – it is part of life.” He reveals that he was once hired to teach manners to an Israeli ambassador’s family – not just to the children, but to the parents as well. Maureen chuckles and recalls some of the basic rules of good manners that her husband had to teach. “If you put a platter down, you wait for the host and hostess to offer you, and you don’t take food off the platter with the fork you’re eating with, but you use the serving spoon.” At the same time, she adds, “We’re British – maybe we’re too formal in Britain.” 
Their Netanya neighborhood is swarming with English speakers – “where we live is completely Anglo-Saxon,” he says, “but when you cross the square, they’re mainly French.” Reprising the Anglo-French cross-channel rivalry, he cackles and adds, “and the two don’t mix.”
Anthony and Maureen enjoy spending time with their 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, all of whom live in Israel, and love traveling in Europe. He takes great pleasure in helping people make aliyah, specifically, he notes, “those who say, ‘If only I could find work in Israel, I would love to come.’ I’ve got wide experience in many things, and I’m happy to give out my knowledge free of charge.”
The best advice that they have for newcomers is to “come with a positive attitude, overlook the bureaucracy and look at the glass half full.” Looking back on their aliyah, they say, “When we first came here, it was difficult to get things. People used to have to bring you tea from England. Now, you can get everything here.”

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