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(photo credit: Meredith Price)
'I always knew that I would be making aliya one day, I just wasn't sure when it would be or how it would come about," says London native Michael Bloom, 46. Somewhat of a celebrity in Israeli canine circles, Bloom is known to many as "the dog whisperer" thanks to his uncanny ability to calm even the most aggressive animals and ameliorate terrible behavioral problems.
Bloom's mother was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and his father, who passed away seven years ago, was a native of London. His father's business involved real estate, and Bloom says he was always interested in property sales. Bloom is the baby of the family, and his two older brothers, a solicitor and an accountant, still reside in England. "I am happy to have made aliya and be raising two Israeli-born children," says Bloom.
Bloom grew up in London and joined the Federation of Zionist Youth (FZY) at 15. In 1978, at the age of 18, he came to Israel for a summer with FZY and studied at the Jerusalem Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad. As part of the program, the trained leaders were required to return home for two years. Bloom went back to London and was chosen for a position at FZY over Yossi Olmert, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's brother.
"Yossi was studying in London at the time and we went out for the same position at FZY," Bloom says. "He was the last person to wish me good luck when I decided to make aliya in 1980."
After making aliya, Bloom worked as a leader in a youth village near Rishon Lezion, then served in the army. "I was extremely motivated, but I will never forget the feeling I had at the end of basic training when everyone went home to their families and I was left on the base alone," says Bloom. In 1986, after completing his army service, Bloom studied to be a chef and decided to return to London to get some experience in a French kosher restaurant.
Although he had already spent years in Israel working with FZY and serving in the army, Bloom did not make a permanent move to Israel until 1990, when he was hired to work with an Israeli army canine unit after studying dog behavior with a renowned trainer, Anthony Burley, in his home town of London. "I returned at the end of the scud [missile attacks by Iraq during the Persian Gulf] war in 1990, and the first city I lived in was Ramat Gan," says Bloom. He met his Israeli wife, Chaya, while he was working in the army. In 1993, the couple was married by an army rabbi in a religious ceremony. Together they are raising two children, Amitai, 11, and Hadar, eight, in Modi'in.
Three years ago, the Blooms moved into a new building constructed of Jerusalem stone. Described as a "duplex garden cottage," their home has two levels and a spacious, private garden. "We turned the back yard from dry dirt into our own little green Eden," says Bloom. He adds that the family dog, Simba, enjoys being outside and that sitting in the garden, which the family planted itself, gives Bloom a strong feeling of satisfaction.
As a young man, Bloom worked for the FZY movement, which kept him constantly traveling between Israel and England. Bloom decided to pursue his interest in dog behavior after working in security late at night in one of London's seediest areas with only a dog for protection. He studied in London with Burley from 1988 to 1990, and was then hired by the Israeli army to manage its dog unit, where he stayed for four years. In 1994, Bloom decided to work independently and branched out into private lessons, consultations and group canine obedience training.
"I live and breathe dogs," says Bloom. "I call myself a dog behaviorist, but people have been known to call me a dog whisperer because of the deep connection I have with dogs. Even the most aggressive, problematic dogs seem to change around me, and many vets who have tried everything else send their patients to me as a last resort. But I am not a magician. I help people by understanding the interactions they have with their dogs, by looking at the behavior patterns of the animals and the owners, and then trying to come up with practical solutions to serious problems. It often means the life or death of the dog, so I take my work very seriously."
A few years ago, Bloom decided to pursue his interest in property and get a real estate license. Along with his canine-related activities, a portion of his time is devoted to helping people find their dream homes. "Real estate helps me bring in more income and fulfills my Zionist goals of bringing people to Israel," Bloom says. "It always makes me happy to see people find the home they always wanted here."
Although he does have some set activities, every day is different for Bloom. "I wake up in the morning and often find myself doing completely unexpected things," he says. Most of his time is divided between raising his children, training dogs and, for the last two years, dabbling in real estate.
When Bloom first arrived in Israel, he avoided native English speakers in order to fully integrate into Israeli society. But since the family has moved to Modi'in, Bloom has made many Anglophone friends, and enjoys a different bond with English speakers. "It's like going back to my roots in some ways," says Bloom. "Now that I feel completely comfortable in Israel, having English friends in the Modi'in community is nice."
Bloom grew up in a religious family in London. "We had the word 'shalom' on our door, and we celebrated the high holidays and attended synagogue," says Bloom. Bloom still keeps a kosher kitchen and observes the holidays, but he attends synagogue less today than he did growing up. "I am a strong Zionist," he says, "but I wouldn't say I am orthodox. I don't keep Shabbat."
Bloom says that he feels fully Israeli, deeply Zionist and proudly British all at the same time. Nevertheless, despite his connection to the land itself and his respect for Israeli strength, Bloom says that he will probably never grow accustomed to local driving etiquette and the day-to-day aggression he says he sees in Israel. "I love the warmth of the Israeli people, and the friendships I have formed here are deeper than any I've ever known, but at the same time I'm very proud of my English background," says Bloom. "My heritage - the dog training I got in London and the family business back home being real estate - has given me a huge amount to offer the country."
A native English speaker, Bloom also speaks fluent Hebrew and "Doggish" - his term for communication between humans and dogs. "I first went to ulpan in 1978, but I had a terrible time at the beginning," says Bloom. "Hebrew was not an easy language to learn. Even now I wouldn't call myself a good writer, but at least I can read and speak with ease."
An avid cyclist, Bloom says that he once rode up to 50 kilometers at a time but has slowed down in recent years. "I love to walk, especially with the dogs, and I love computers. I made my own Internet site, for example," Bloom says.
"My dream is to earn enough money with real estate to permit me to train dogs as a full-time hobby," says Bloom. "And of course I want to be healthy and financially sound."
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