Zipora and Geoffrey Rogg 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It took him a while, but Geoffrey Rogg is about to fulfill the promise he made to former prime minister David Ben-Gurion 41 years ago.
In August, he and his wife, Zipora, will board a plane chartered by Nefesh B’Nefesh and make aliya, bringing to a close a story that began in 1970 with a pledge he made in person to head of government.
Rogg, a British Jew who helped raise money for Israel through Keren Hanegev, was 28 years old in 1969 when he met Ben-Gurion at a fund-raiser function in London.
Ben-Gurion was by then 83, a former prime minister in the unfamiliar position of being in the opposition. The two men struck up a rapport and a year later Rogg visited Ben- Gurion at his home in Kibbutz Sde Boker to present him with fund-raising numbers.
“He was not interested in our findings at all,” Rogg recalled on Saturday in an interview by phone from Stowe, Vermont. “He was more interested in me and then he said, ‘Young man, all I want to know is when will you come to Eretz Yisrael?’ “I said I very much look forward to making aliya in the right time, and in fact I was going to, but then a friend of ours asked if I could delay going to Israel for six months because they were having problems with their company and they wanted me to give them a hand. The six months turned into 20 years.”
Or 41, to be precise; but who’s counting? One might ask what took him so long, but the answer is mundane and familiar to anyone who has solemnly sworn “Next year in Jerusalem” only for life somehow to get in the way.
Rogg worked as a chartered accountant in the UK and later in New York, where he met Zipora, a Colombianborn Jew. He had his commitments; she had hers at the UN where she put her knowledge of four languages to work as a communications director. They always remained connected to Israel and Zionism, but making aliya never came up even after they retired.
Then, in October 2009, they came to see family and friends in Israel after not having visited for years.
“We intended to stay a few months, and without much discussion we realized we wanted to make aliya,” Rogg recalled. “Our visit of two months became three months and we didn’t leave until January 2010.”
After their experience they were determined to live here permanently, so they got in touch with Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency to make the necessary arrangements.
Like many other immigrants from North America they leave behind a life of comfort. Stowe is a peaceful and quiet town famed for its ski slopes in the winter and verdant vistas in the summer.
Zipora teaches Hebrew at the Jewish Community Center and has a special bond with her students.
Don’t they feel sad to leave all that behind? “It’s worth it one million times,” Zipora said. “Vermont is beautiful but Israel is Israel. It has our family and friend and it is in our hearts.”
The couple plan to move into an apartment in Netanya but they have no plans to settle down.
“We want to volunteer at the Bet Oved blind center, maybe Zaka [the rescue and recovery organization] or Magen David Adom,” Zipora said.
“Life is strange, and my wife and I being international professionals had always had obligations,” her husband added, “but we’re both very excited and can’t wait to get there and see what we can do to make things better.”