(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
‘It was never in my mind to come here,” says Brad Hoffman, who left his
Johannesburg home in April 2010 to try out life in Israel.
He’d come to
visit many times, and even served in the army in his youth, but Israel as a
place to live seemed no different from all the places his friends were going to
– Australia, Canada or the United States.
Leaving South Africa, however
was something he was sure about. In his work as a consultant he’d spent long
periods in Nigeria, found living there less than efficient and feared that his
own country was going in the same direction.
“My contracts were coming to
an end and, as I completed my assignments, I realized this would be a great
opportunity to make a change in my life,” he says.
With a sister and
brother already living here, he contacted the Jewish Agency emissary in his
hometown and found out his rights as a new immigrant.
style, he was misinformed about what benefits he could get and later discovered
he could have received financial help to cover his ulpan studies as well. He
spent the first month with his brother in Neveh Daniel, then took the money he
had budgeted, rented a place in Tel Aviv and joined Ulpan Gordon for intensive
“I had zero Hebrew until I did the ulpan,” he says, and
he knew getting the language would be the key to finding a good job.
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five months focusing on Hebrew paid off and he found a job in a law firm through
a friend who worked there and knew they were looking to hire. He was certainly
over-qualified for the office job he was offered, with two degrees and an MBA,
but he realized he had to start at the bottom. Before long, he was able to put
his special skills to use for the benefit of the company.
“What I do is
operational efficiency,” he explains.
“In business you make a profit in
two ways – by selling more and reducing costs. My field of expertise is in
working to reduce inefficiencies and improve the running of the department. At
first I did it under my own initiative and, when the management saw I was
succeeding, I got my own department.”
Now comfortably ensconced in a job
he likes near the Ramat Gan Diamond Bourse, he also has a steady girlfriend whom
he met through Gvahim, an organization he joined soon after making aliya two
“People don’t realize it, but there is a huge brain gain in
this country at the moment,” says Hoffman. “A lot of highly skilled people are
coming to live here and the market is not identifying and using those
Gvahim is a non-profit whose mission is to help highly skilled
immigrants fulfill their professional aspirations in Israel. With the help of a
motivated and qualified staff and volunteers who have benefited from the
program themselves, Hoffman feels strongly that he can, in turn, contribute his
skills to what he considers a very successful organization.
in internal fund-raising activities, trying to persuade alumni of the group to
donate back so we can sponsor more people,” he says.
Living in Israel has
proved challenging in some ways, and while he sees many positive things, he is
not without criticism of the Israeli mentality.
“South Africans are on
the whole quiet and conservative and we are usually considerate of each other,”
he says. “Here it’s a self-centered society, with that fear of being a freier
[sucker], which drives Israelis to do anti-social things.”
He also finds
life very expensive here, as do many of his friends – not just day-to-day living
expenses but also entertainment and travel, although he concedes that the
lifestyle and social activities are great.
On the other hand, he has
discovered that in Israel, you are never more than three steps away from the CEO
of any company.
“This doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world,” he says.
But in spite of this he has discovered that the “ p r o t e k t z i a ”
(connections) principle still works, and knowing the right people is the key to
an easy aliya.
Without any illusions or sentimental attachment to Israel,
he is not yet ready to make a final judgment on life here. “You have to give a
country at least five years to know for sure if it’s the right place for you,”
he says. “It’s true of Australia, England, Canada and the US – all the places my
friends went to when they left South Africa.”
Hoffman feels that he has a
real relationship with Israel by not seeing it with rose-colored spectacles or
as a haven from persecution, like so many other immigrants do.
an idealist, so obviously there are things I find challenging, especially the
mentality I’m not used to,” he says. “I don’t think I’m ever going to feel
Israeli, but that isn’t so terrible. Diversity is a good thing.” ■
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