(photo credit: Meredith Price)
'I don't have a last name. I'm like Madonna," says Beverley, a vibrant, bubbly single mother who bravely made aliya from London 21 years ago with four young children. "It [her former last name] was his, and I left him 21 years ago and tried to get rid of him for nine years before that. I never wanted to go back to my maiden name, so now it's just Beverley.
"My mom loved a writer named Beverley Nichols, so I was named after him."
Beverley was raised in an extremely Orthodox Jewish community and attended religious schools. "There was something special about being a Londoner in middle-class society. We had to put our gloves on to go to the West End. It was fun while it lasted," says Beverley, who was "shiduched off," as she puts it, to a French haredi man named Eli Chaim at 19 in 1976. "I had a boyfriend I liked, but my parents wanted me to have what they considered to be the more religious shiduch. I didn't want Eli, but they told me it was the right thing to do, and I was a good girl so I married him."
Between 1980 and 1986, she had four children: Davina, Shuli, Tsvi and Avi. After the birth of her second child, Beverley says she knew her marriage was over, but she felt a need to justify remaining with her morose, depressed and violent husband. "I was a prisoner in my own home, and I didn't know how to cope with it. I had two more children because I wanted a reason for staying with him in that hellhole. My children are the good that came out of a terrible situation."
When Beverley's fourth child, Avi, was three months old, she decided it was finally time to leave her husband, pack her bags and make aliya. "I came to Israel for the first time when I was seven, and for 22 years my friends had to hear me talk about coming to Israel," she says, bright yellow fingernails holding the straw of her grapefruit juice as she takes a long sip. "My friends made a party for me and their haredi husbands got angry because I was leaving my husband, but for them, the party was in honor of my aliya. I was a lunatic about Israel. It is the only place I ever wanted to be."
At the beginning of Hitler's rise to power, Beverley's father immigrated to England with his parents from Vienna. He served in the British Army during World War II and later worked as a diamond merchant. Her mother arrived during the same time period with her parents from Berlin. After her marriage to Beverley's father, she stayed home to raise the children. The youngest child, Beverley has a who lives in Petah Tikva and a brother in England.
Beverley's first job was in social services in Bnei Brak, but later she opened a matchmaking bureau and then found work with the National Diamond Center. Encouraged by her boss, she completed an 18-month tour guide course and started taking groups around the country. When the intifada began and the tourists stopped coming, she took an English as a foreign language teaching course and got a job with Berlitz. Last year, she became interested in life coaching and took a course in Holon.
Sunday through Friday, Beverley takes a bus to Tel Aviv and arrives by 8 a.m. to start her day, which usually lasts until 10 p.m., and includes teaching advanced English courses, giving workshops on relationships and sex and conducting private lessons for business executives, bank managers and hi-tech executives. "I am a workaholic, partially out of necessity and partially because I love it so much I wonder if I'm sick."
After a corrupt builder ran away with a large amount of her money, Beverley lost the house she had purchased in Jerusalem in 1992. Today, she resides in an apartment in Nahlaot. "I love Jerusalem," says Beverley, who lived in Petah Tikva and Ra'anana for a few years before moving to the capital 15 years ago.
She says what she loves most about home is that religious and non-religious people live there peacefully side by side. "What everyone says about Jerusalem and religious and non-religious not getting along is simply not true. And the beauty of being there is that it's like living in one big yishuv." Beverley says that although she spends most of her day working in Tel Aviv and has a long commute, sleeping in Jerusalem is worth it. "Only a Jerusalemite can explain to you why," she says.
Beverley jokes that she fell off the stork and should not have been born in England. "That doesn't mean that I'm not proud of British culture, but I consider myself European." Her cosmopolitan mother, who never got over leaving Berlin, gave Beverley a multicultural education. "Above all else, I am Israeli and Jewish."
After battling for 15 years to obtain a divorce from her husband who never gave a dime to support her or their four children, Beverley says she left the religious world to protect herself and her children. "He wouldn't give me a divorce because he was afraid that I would tell the truth about him in a court of law. I would have shamed his family, so it was easier for him to throw me into the garbage," she says. "I love religion. I am what you call a total believer, but the fact that I didn't have a get and I wanted to live life as a woman caused difficulties and offended everyone involved, so it was easier to just walk away."
Beverley says she was destined to leave the religious community because in doing so, many new doors were opened for her to help others and come into contact with people she would never have met.
"I am so blessed with friends who love me and who care. I have so much support and help," she says. Although her best friend is in England, Beverley says her students and colleagues here are incredible friends, and she has a very close relationship with all of her children. "My children are my best friends. They are my life, and they are so proud of me."
In addition to English, Beverley also knows German and Hebrew. "I tried my luck at Italian but couldn't get past 'my name is,'" says Beverley, who learned Hebrew by walking around Petah Tikva with a dictionary under her arm for a year. "I used to tell people, 'I have one Hebrew and one grammar, you work it out,' because I couldn't get the masculine, feminine thing straight."
When she isn't working, one of Beverley's favorite pastimes is writing. "It took me 50 years to say I'm good at something, and today I can honestly say I'm good at what I do." Her children are encouraging her to write a book about her life, and she recently attended a writers' conference in England. She says her topics include travel, family matters and stories relevant to teaching.
In September, Beverley is expecting the birth of her first grandchild. A few months later, she plans to be what she calls "a traveling, teaching granny. I'm starting my travels in China, and I plan to be there until after the Olympics. I'm going to do what others do at 20 at 50."
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