Allina Turnauer 88 9298.
(photo credit: Meredith Price)
As their two youngest children play next to them on the couch with Paisley, the family dog, Dan and Esti Allina-Turnauer explain how they met in Israel after they had both made aliya individually.
"A friend of mine kept telling me she wanted to give this great guy Dan my number, but she kept forgetting, so I finally asked her for his," says Esti, who called Dan for a blind date. Esti says she knew by the end of the first night that this was the man she would marry.
"Two and a half weeks after we met in 1992, we took a weekend bike trip to Rosh Hanikra and at the end of the trip we got engaged," Esti says. "I haven't been able to get rid of him since."
Esti grew up in Livonia, Michigan and Wilmington, Delaware in a close-knit family. She attended the University of Delaware before her move to Israel.
"My parents always said if it's not unethical and it's not illegal, go for it," Esti says. "Besides, they knew it would be futile to try and stop me."
Dan's upbringing was less stable. He moved back and forth between Colombia and Canada until age 15, and then spent two years in Zaire when his mother was sent there to work for the Canadian embassy. While in Zaire, he met a German family and decided to apply to university in Germany, where he studied for one year and then worked for four years as a computer programmer. In 1984, he went to the US and got a degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts in medical anthropology. Before making aliya he worked as a paramedic.
"My parents divorced when I was one year old, and I never knew my father," Dan says. "He was born in Vienna and was a survivor of Auschwitz. He immigrated to Colombia with his parents and an adopted sister (whose mother had asked that they care for her before being sent to the gas chamber) when he was seven.
"My father married my mother at the age of 21 when she was just 14, but after they separated, I did not have any connection with him until 2000, when I found his name through an Internet search. I then learned that he had remarried and I have three half-brothers," Dan says.
Dan's mother passed away in Panama two and a half years ago, and his brother lives in Canada.
Esti made aliya at the age of 22 in 1987, participated in the para-military course "Marva" and found a job teaching English in a high school in Bat Yam.
"I always felt like a fish out of water in the US, but from my first visit here in 1983, I was at home," says Esti, who explains that six months after her college graduation, she made aliya.
Dan, who made aliya in 1990, says the seed was planted while he was studying in Germany.
"I met an Israeli woman at the university who was a guidance counselor and she encouraged me to come to Israel," says Dan. "Something was always missing in my life, and I had a strange Zionist connection to Israel because of the Holocaust, so I thought that maybe I would find what I was looking for here."
Today, Dan and Esti are raising four boys of their own in Netanya: Yonathan, 11, Adam, 9, Avraham, 6 and Aharon, 4.
By next Purim, the family hopes to move into a new apartment in Netanya.
"We've owned two other apartments, but we've never had a brand new one, and something about picking our own tiles and colors makes it feel more like our own," says Esti.
For the last seven years, the family has lived in what was once considered a strictly religious neighborhood but is today somewhat mixed.
"If we have to label it, although I am not fond of tags," Esti hesitates, "I would say we are modern Orthodox."
She explains that she came here for spiritual and religious goals: "I grew up in a traditional, conservative religious household and attended an Orthodox Hebrew school, and by the time I made aliya I was Shabbat observant and kosher. I attended synagogue on a regular basis, but not much more than that."
"I would say I'm Israeli-American or American-Israeli," says Esti, who adds that although she is culturally American, when she visits her family in the US she realizes how Israeli she has become.
As a Colombian native with perfect English, Dan confuses people in Israel.
"I don't really know how to define my identity," Dan says. "I guess I feel European, but without any real basis for it."
Although Dan and Esti insist on speaking only English at home in order to develop the skills of their four bilingual sons, both are also fluent in Hebrew. Dan is a native speaker of Spanish and also knows German from his grandparents and French from school.
For more than 10 years, Dan has worked at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. Esti worked as a secretary until shortly after their marriage, and then worked as a content writer for an educational program to teach English as a second language. She has been an at-home mother since her first child was born, and having studied reflexology and iridology, she is currently working on two on-line businesses from home.
"Both companies are multi-level marketing, but the products differ. One centers on neutralizing electromagnetic fields and the other is all natural-based nutrition and chemical-free household and personal care products," says Esti.
Dan works from Sunday to Thursday at Bar-Ilan.
"I usually leave at 6 a.m. and return by 4 p.m.," he says of the daily commute. "We just bought our very first car and not having to take public transport has changed our lives."
Esti sends the kids to school and gan, says her morning prayers and then works out for an hour before taking care of the house, walking Paisley and spending time on her businesses.
"Most of our friends are Anglos," says Dan. "We live in an area with about 50 Anglo families, so we have formed our own small community." Esti says when she was younger she had more Israeli friends, but making connections with the tight-knit groups of Israelis who grew up together was always difficult for her.
"My dream is to raise my children and gain financial security for my family," says Esti. "And I want to travel and learn new languages in the future."
For Dan, the family has taken giant steps forward in the last six months towards fulfilling his dream of feeling comfortable in a home and being more settled.
"With the purchase of the car and our new apartment, things are moving in the right direction," says Dan. "We have contemplated living elsewhere in the past, but always decided against it. We want our boys to be Israeli and we are living our dreams just by being here."
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