How one immigrant couple is building a stronger Israel

The couple nurtures aa other joint venture: Queenrise Self-Defense, which teaches self-defense to women and teenage girls.

 Yakir and Jackie Hyman (photo credit: Courtesy The Hymans)
Yakir and Jackie Hyman
(photo credit: Courtesy The Hymans)

Two of the most pivotal, life-shaping experiences in Yakir Hyman’s life happened in Israel. 

The first was getting expelled from a teen tour program one summer during high school. 

“The funny thing was that I got in trouble on the trip, and I got kicked out. But they didn’t send me back to America,” he recalls. “I ended up living on Moshav Modi’im with a family for three weeks and I hung out with all the moshav kids and started playing music with Nachman Solomon,” of the famed musical Solomon brothers. 

“At some point, I said, ‘I love this. I could live here.’ Being able to do my own thing in Israel is what did it for me,” says Yakir, who made aliyah in 2005 at age 20.

The second pivotal experience was meeting Jackie Siegel in 2007. 

New olim are seen having arrived in Israel (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)New olim are seen having arrived in Israel (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Jackie and her older sister, Rachel, had made aliyah together in 2004, followed by their parents three years later. After ulpan and a year of Sherut Leumi at a school for disadvantaged kids in Jerusalem, Jackie was attending Bar-Ilan University in 2007. 

But because of a student strike, she was spending time with her best friend in Jerusalem’s Nahlaot neighborhood. Yakir and his roommate lived next door.

When they first met, each was involved romantically with someone else, so they were just friends. Eventually, love won out. They wed in 2009 in an open cave at Beit Guvrin.

Today, the Hymans live in Efrat with their three children: Meira, almost 11; Akiva, eight; and Eden, four. All the grandparents also live in Efrat; Jackie’s parents arrived in 2007 and Yakir’s parents in 2013. 

In addition to their children, the couple nurture another joint venture: Jackie’s business, Queenrise Self-Defense (queenrise.com), which teaches self-defense to women and teenage girls.

“For the past 12 years I’ve been teaching self-defense. For 10 years, I worked for an organization called El Halev, which teaches martial arts in a very specific method of self-defense for women and marginalized populations. I was traveling all over Israel teaching in schools, safe homes and all kinds of groups,” Jackie says.

She then decided to take a break from martial arts and got certified as a fitness instructor for pregnant and postpartum women.

“That was awesome, but I realized teaching self-defense and preventing violence really is my passion and my purpose,” says Jackie. 

So in April 2020, she took a leap of faith and started her own company. She teaches groups and individuals in Efrat and other communities around Israel, as well as online via virtual workshops and courses.

She sometimes leads mother-daughter workshops. “It’s such an incredible experience to see moms witnessing their daughters really in their power and daughters witnessing their moms really in their power outside of the mom role,” she says. 

“They come away with a common language about the boundaries and situations which a lot of young girls deal with, and a lot of women have dealt with, in their past.”

YAKIR MANAGES the back-end of the business, drawing on experience gained from his diverse employment history. 

He cleaned houses, installed smart-home systems, wrote grants for the Jewish Agency, and worked in search marketing and digital reputation management at Kahena and Five Blocks, respectively. He also founded a livetronica quartet (a musical style that blends jam band elements with those of electronica), the G-Nome Project, for which he was the lead guitarist. The band made its mark domestically and on the American music festival scene, and is planning a comeback after a three-year hiatus.

“Yakir is very entrepreneurial,” says Jackie. “He always loves to build things from the ground up. He built his band from the ground up. He was looking for something new to build and he said, ‘You’ve got all this knowledge; let’s make a business out of what you’ve got going on.’”

When asked what he loves best about Israel, Yakir zeroes in on the kid-centered culture.

“I love how family-oriented Israel is,” he says. “Culturally, the focus on family here is unsurpassed. Israel seems like a good, fun place to be a kid and to raise kids. For better or for worse, they can just be kids here. No one is looking at you in the supermarket line and judging you.”

In general, he finds Israeli authenticity refreshing. “You’re getting what you see with people. I love that. There are fewer boundaries between people – again, for better or for worse – but the authenticity in the culture is very healthy,” Yakir says. 

Jackie agrees and adds another dimension to the picture.

“I love raising my kids here, but I also feel deeply that I am a huge part of history. I am so privileged that I could choose to move here even if it is less comfortable in Israel than where I came from. That is a historical anomaly,” she points out.

“Most of the people who live here were refugees and were kicked out of their countries or were escaping genocide. So I really feel it is incredible that this country exists, and that Jews are coming here from all over the world. I think in the future people will look back on this time as a pivotal point in history,” Jackie continues.

“We’re the only nation that has been completely uprooted from our land for thousands of years and been able to maintain a cohesive identity and come back. It’s not something I take for granted. For me, it’s a no-brainer that if there’s an opportunity for a Jew to come to their indigenous homeland, they should do it.”

If she could change anything about Israel, it would be the divisiveness.

“I wish the ongoing conflict would end. It’s hard to go through another war and another war and more terror. There’s no reason for it keep being perpetuated,” she says. 

“Being here is an opportunity to heal the generational trauma that we’ve been handed as Jews, and we could do a better job of that. We could build a beautiful, beautiful country here. 

“And I believe one day it will happen.” ■

JACKIE HYMAN, 36From Denver, 2004 YAKIR HYMAN, 37From Teaneck, NJ, 2005