zichron arriv 88 224.
(photo credit: WENDY BLUMFIELD)
Vivienne Tankus, 61
Birthplace: London, UK
Aliyah date: August 2006
Occupation: Retired teacher
Family Status: Married with blended families
A chance meeting at a Toronto synagogue function led to a wedding, a new life for both partners and the path to aliya.
For Vivienne, who was born in a London suburb, mixing mainly with Orthodox friends in the Bnei Akiva youth movement, aliya was the culmination of a dream. For Gideon, born in Haifa and a regular visitor to Israel over the years for his work and to see family, it was time to come home.
Vivienne left the UK for Canada and the US in 1968. After her divorce in 1987, she moved to Toronto where she taught in the Hebrew day-school system and then in Toronto's public French immersion school system. A graduate of Goldsmiths College, an affiliate of London University, she focused on French and special education. Continuing her studies in Canada, she received her BA in French and education just before her 50th birthday.
Gideon completed his army service after graduating from the Basmat Technical School in Haifa and then joined a kibbutz, but after three years he was anxious to continue studying. Because of his musical ability, the kibbutz was prepared to send him to a music conservatory, but his primary interest was in engineering. He decided to leave the kibbutz to study at the Technion. He was then offered a scholarship by the University of Cincinnati. In 1968, he moved to Canada to take a degree in mechanical engineering and started his career in management in the aerospace industry.
A serious traffic accident almost cost him his life. He recovered, but with severe disabilities. "I was told I would never walk again." says Gideon. He resigned from his demanding job and took on consultancy work. Although suffering chronic pain, Gideon says: "Ailment is secondary. Quality of life is primary." He walks short distances with a cane but knows his limitations and ensures that there is a wheelchair or transportation for his extensive travels. "Disability is not a contraindication for life," he says.
In December 1999, after his mother died, he started to search for his Jewish identity. His parents had been Mizrahi liberals. Now he became observant.
In 2001, fate brought Vivienne and Gideon, both divorced, together. Vivienne had organized a singles evening in her synagogue and Gideon, who lived 60 kilometers away was invited by his cousin. "He swept me off my feet," laughs Vivienne, and Gideon adds: "Nothing else mattered but her." Vivienne remembered that she was cautious about starting a new relationship, "but he courted me in the old-fashioned way." Eighteen months later they were married.
Vivienne's only visit to Israel had been in 1968, but she always dreamed of returning. Gideon had visited frequently, volunteered in the Yom Kippur War and often thought of coming home. His first wife was reluctant to do so and the years passed. Gideon joined a JNF mission in 2002. On his return, he and Vivienne contacted Nefesh B'Nefesh and together began the process of decision-making. They attended informational meetings, also joining Kehilot Tehila, whose speakers visited Canada, helping potential immigrants who were serious about aliya. The couple had decided that they wanted to live in the North of Israel, so they came on a pilot trip to investigate housing in different areas.
"A Haifa couple introduced to us by mutual friends invited us for the weekend." says Vivienne. "For every meal, they invited different groups of friends and contacts. I even met an old member of my Bnei Akiva group. I'll always be grateful to them, because we realized that we were not coming to a strange country, we already had friends."
Vivienne and Gideon were also enthusiastic about Nefesh B'Nefesh. "They are so well organized and efficient," says Gideon. Vivienne adds: "Apart from NBN taking care of so much preparatory administration and avoiding the runaround experienced by most immigrants, they provided the personal touch, the networking, the constant source of information and people to answer all our questions."
Even though the Second Lebanon War ended only two days before their aliya, three planeloads of Nefesh B'Nefesh immigrants arrived together: 3,000 people arriving simultaneously from Canada, the US and the UK.
The old Terminal 1 building at the airport was taken over for a welcoming ceremony attended by the prime minister and other dignitaries. Documents were processed and transportation was provided to various destinations, but Vivienne and Gideon were whisked away to Jerusalem to appear on a live TV show which was featured on Canada a.m. Vivienne was amused that their friends in Canada actually witnessed their arrival.
On their previous visit, the couple had been house-hunting, but Vivienne was not in Israel when Gideon found their dream house in Zichron Ya'acov, situated in an old neighborhood on the eastern side of the Carmel. "It is not an area where many English-speakers live," says Vivienne, "but we love the warmth and friendliness of the neighbors." They also enjoy attending the Sephardi synagogue.
Vivienne has a married son in Philadelphia, her youngest son is a chef and restaurant manager in Seattle, while her daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren (and one on the way) live in Jerusalem. She also has her father, almost 97, in Toronto.
Gideon's daughter, married with three children, and his son still live in Canada.
Vivienne is fluent in English, French, German and Yiddish and is working hard at improving her Hebrew. "The familiar words and phrases of the prayerbooks suddenly took on reality," she says.
Gideon is, of course, fluent in Hebrew which is a great help when dealing with bureaucracy. Plus, after 36 years in the US and Canada, he speaks perfect English.
Both Vivienne and Gideon are retired but keep very busy. Gideon helped to set up an ulpan for English-speaking adults, not necessarily new immigrants, in Zichron Ya'acov. He is now working on a similar program for children. Gideon also enjoys singing and attending the synagogue study programs.
Vivienne, whose Hebrew has developed impressively, also participates in the synagogue study groups. She is a talented cook, and she loves reading and meeting people. She was greatly helped by the Nefesh B'Nefesh buddy in her area, who indicated to her the shops and local services. "I hope that I can also be a buddy to newcomers." she says.
Gideon had been concerned that aliya would be more traumatic for Vivienne than for himself as a returning Israeli, but in fact he was deeply affected by the change in the dynamics of the country. "It was also difficult to adjust to the chaotic bureaucracy." In Canada he had had a high disability status. He had to repeat the entire process from scratch with the National Insurance Institute, in spite of having notarized documents and medical reports. For some reason his identity number, given to him as a child in Haifa, was registered to another person. Most of the government offices corrected the error but the Vehicle Licensing Office procrastinated for many months delaying the issue of his driving license.
Vivienne is more philosophical about it and starts every encounter with a bright smile and some optimism. "I know that when we go to these offices, we need to bring a bottle of water, a bar of chocolate, a good book and a lot of patience. It is not that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, rather that the right hand doesn't know that there is a left hand."
However, the couple are clearly at peace with their decision. "We are nearer to the stars here than anywhere in the world." says Gideon.
"The only thing that I miss, apart from my father, is the snow," Vivienne concludes.
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