Jonathan Binke 88 298.
(photo credit: Meredith Price)
'I always had some inner feeling about Israel, but I hadn't been here for 10 years," says Jonathan 'Jonny' Binke, 33, who decided to come on an exploratory trip in May 1999 at the invitation of an Israeli he met on his travels.
"A series of little things happened when I was backpacking that made me want to come to Israel."
One specific incident occurred on a bus when a group of Israelis got into an argument with fellow passengers. Binke joined in and told them that he was Jewish, and they responded by saying, "You're one of us." Another time, Binke saw a traveling Israeli bring his own pot to the kitchen and asked to cook his own food so it would be kosher.
In Indonesia, Binke met an Israeli named Eli, who remains a good friend today and had the most profound influence on his decision to make aliya. "I already wanted to know more about my religion, and when Eli invited me to come and visit, I decided to take him up on the offer," Binke says. "I returned to England from my trip here loving Israel and wanting to move, but it took a few years for me to actually do it."
Binke describes himself as an atypical London Jew. "I went to a few different schools in London, your normal bad variety where you say the Lord's Prayer every day," says Binke, who is a huge soccer fan and played soccer in the Jewish league in London. On his gap year, he traveled through the US and Canada and then returned to England for university. In 1995, he graduated from Manchester with a BA in economics and math. Not really knowing what to do, Binke decided to take a job with Deloitte and Touche.
"When my three-year sentence there was up, I bought a one-way ticket to Katmandu," says Binke, who almost died on a Himalayan peak two weeks into his adventure. "I was deathly ill. I couldn't sleep, severely dehydrated, feverish and numb, and I remember some guy coming into my room and telling me I had to leave because it would be bad for business to have a tourist die there. It was good times."
Once he got down the mountain, he made a full recovery and continued traveling. At then end of his trip, he came to Israel for a visit. "When I got back to England, I wanted to be either a trader or a schoolteacher or a TV presenter," Binke explains. "All closely related, I know."
After a few unsuccessful auditions, he took a job at the BBC because it was near his flat and convenient. "I left the BBC relatively quickly for a job as a lecturer on financial markets at a private college. It made sense to stay long enough to take the exams, but I was already coming to Israel on vacation every chance I got."
On January 17, 2005, Binke made the final move to Israel. "I had a very smooth landing because I already had a good group of friends, a place to live, and I got a job quickly," he says. "It was all very easy. I had paid vacation in my job as a lecturer, so I got to come here first and prepare for my move."
After a few months of ulpan and enjoying life, Binke contacted friends in the financial industry and some banks, and found his current job working as a lecturer.
"I thought about trying to get on A Star is Born, but I'm not sure I want to be famous," Binke says in a charming British accent.
Binke is third-generation English. His great-grandparents came from Poland and Russia. "I remember a story about one great-grandparent who came to escape Poland after he killed an anti-Semitic Pole," he says. "But I don't really know the details."
Binke's older brother, an optician, and his parents live in London. His father works in advertising and his mom is a secretary. "We're a small but tight-knit family. My brother would like to come here, but realistically I don't think it would be possible with his business there and a wife and two children to support."
"My first place here was a great penthouse that I shared with an F-16 pilot," he says. "Then I moved to the Ben-Yehuda/Allenby area for a while." He says he realized relatively quickly that he needed something nicer, and now he lives on a small, quiet street near the beach. "I have a really nice, spacious apartment now. I love being close to the beach."
Binke works for Super Derivatives, a company founded in 2000. Based in the Azrieli Center, the nature of his work often requires travel. "I do a lot of teaching internally about options, and I also give lectures abroad. The highlight of my career thus far was giving a lecture at Hebrew University across from the Old City. That was amazing."
"I don't really have a set routine," he says. Other than working Monday through Friday, watching soccer matches on Saturdays at the local pub and playing soccer on Sundays, things vary. "I generally have a good time whatever is happening."
When he first moved to Tel Aviv, Binke's friends were largely Israeli, people he had met on his various travels and on previous visits. But since making aliya, he says he now has friends from work and from his soccer league. "My company is like the League of Nations."
"My Hebrew's all right - apart from my ridiculous accent." Binke attended ulpan when he first arrived, but most of his work is conducted in English, and he speaks English with the majority of his friends so he has little opportunity to improve. "I made big efforts to learn Hebrew by myself when I got here, so I have a good vocabulary, but I rarely use it."
Tall and lean, Binke looks like an athlete and he loves sports - especially soccer, tennis, cycling and walking on the beach. "I like going out at night, bowling, concerts, generally having a good time," he says. "I also go up to the North on the odd occasion, but Tel Aviv is so much fun that it's a problem because I almost never leave."
Raised in a traditional family that attends synagogue three times a year, Binke says he was never extremely observant. "I think I'm actually less observant in Israel than I was in London. In London, for example, I wouldn't go out on a Friday night, but here I don't feel the need to do Jewish things because everyone is Jewish. And I love going out here on Friday night and not feeling like a goy."
"I guess I'm an English Jew who came to live in Israel," says Binke. "I'm definitely English." Nevertheless, although many people cannot understand what he's doing here, he says he is completely at home. "I love everything about Israel, I love Yom Ha'atzmaut, I love it when taxis ask me what I'm doing here and I say, 'I wanted to live in the Holy Land' and then they say, 'Ein makom aher [there's nowhere else]."
"I don't have any specific plans or dreams. I just want to be happy." Eventually, he would like to meet the right girl, get married and have a family, but for the moment his focus is on living life to the fullest.
"After all," he says, "You never know when the Iranians might hit."
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