This oleh retired in Israel and began leading a Jerusalem hiking club

Physician, hiker and history buff, Arnold Slyper has found his niche - sever niches, actually - in Israel: Hiking.

 AT LEFT with wife, Judy, in the Ein Kerem Valley with the In and Around Jerusalem Hiking Club. (photo credit: Courtesy Arnold Slyper)
AT LEFT with wife, Judy, in the Ein Kerem Valley with the In and Around Jerusalem Hiking Club.
(photo credit: Courtesy Arnold Slyper)

Dr. Arnold Slyper says Israel is a fantastic country for retirement. Coming from Allentown, Pennsylvania, at age 66, in December 2013, with his wife, Judy, he has found several niches that have kept him busy, productive and constantly learning.

“I felt it important for myself to have an aim in life; otherwise, life becomes meaningless. Self-improvement is fine, but I also wanted to contribute to society, and I have found that there’s so much to do in Israel!”

“I felt it important for myself to have an aim in life; otherwise, life becomes meaningless. Self-improvement is fine, but I also wanted to contribute to society, and I have found that there’s so much to do in Israel!”

Dr. Arnold Slyper

At first, he continued his career as a pediatric endocrinologist. “I was fortunate to obtain a part-time position for two days a week working in a Clalit pediatric endocrinology clinic. This included running a pediatric weight-control clinic, as nutrition and obesity are two of my specialty areas in the US,” he relates.

While at Clalit, he researched obesity, publishing a paper on a discovery he’d initially made in America: many obese children have a tremendous, abnormal amount of hunger, and that hunger can be influenced by different types of food and the chewing process. This research and other work led to his cookbook and health guide, Family Friendly Mediterranean-style Cooking with a Groundbreaking Guide to Weight Loss, Weight Control and Cardiovascular Health.

“However, when COVID came, my Hebrew was not good enough to do solely telemedicine. When the clinic offered that I see many of their patients face to face, I realized, regretfully, that because of my age and the risks from COVID, I needed to take a break from medicine for a while. When I was ready to come back after two years, my position had already been given to someone younger,” he recounts.

SHVIL HAMAAYANOT is a popular hiking trail close to Jerusalem, with stunning views of the Judean Mountains along much of its length and several springs along the trail. The start of the hike is only a 20-minute walk from Hadassah Ein Kerem. (credit: ARNOLD SLYPER)SHVIL HAMAAYANOT is a popular hiking trail close to Jerusalem, with stunning views of the Judean Mountains along much of its length and several springs along the trail. The start of the hike is only a 20-minute walk from Hadassah Ein Kerem. (credit: ARNOLD SLYPER)

Retiring from work, getting into hiking

But Slyper had no intention of twiddling his thumbs.

“I love hiking, and I saw that there was a need for information in English on walks and hikes in and around Jerusalem so that English-speakers would not be reliant on tours for discovering this area,” he explains.

This passion led to a website and then a book titled In and around Jerusalem for everyone: the best walks, hikes and outdoor swimming, which is selling briskly in several Jerusalem bookstores.

Then he started leading hikes himself, advertising them in The Jerusalem Post.

“I did this, initially, to get more experience with the hikes I had described in my website, but I realized that I was really enjoying leading a group as much as the participants were enjoying coming. I, therefore, formed the In and Around Jerusalem Hiking Club, and have been arranging hikes and walks every four to six weeks for several years,” he says.

I think this is meeting a need, since many Anglos want something different from a bus tour that takes them from place to place or an extremely challenging hike run by an Israeli hiking organization. This hiking club also has a social aspect, since a hike is a great way to meet people. I limit the hikes to 35 people and they fill rapidly, even in the middle of the summer. I now have a mailing list of over 250 people.”

BUILDING ON the success of this endeavor, Slyper has been working on a new website, galilandgolan.com, to help Anglos discover the rich variety of sites in the Golan Heights, Upper and Lower Galilee, Hula Valley, upper Jordan Valley and around Lake Kinneret.

“Each area is divided into three categories: family activities, hikes, and historic sites. Throughout the web pages are essays of interest on the geography and biblical and post-biblical history of the North of Israel. When finished, the website will also include maps,” he says.

Slyper hopes to turn this into a book, as well. He has formed a new publishing company called Kochav Press, together with Benjie Herskowitz, an experienced typesetter and graphic artist from his neighborhood in Ma’aleh Adumim.

“The aim of this company is to produce quality books at a very reasonable price, to optimize royalties for the author, and to provide guidance to authors on advertising and selling their book,” he explains.

Coming out in about a month from Kochav Press is another book authored by Slyper. The Struggle for Utopia. A History of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Messianism consists of biographies of the individuals most influential in developing these concepts for the three faiths, how their ideas were influenced by the historic period in which they lived, and, in turn, how they influenced Jewish or world history.

Slyper believes that many of the external conflicts related to Jews and Israel can only be understood with an appreciation of their messianic roots.

“Similarly, much of antisemitism, and conversely love of Jews, have messianic underpinnings,” Slyper says, noting that internal discord within Israel is not infrequently related to messianic concepts, including the Jewish-Islamic clash over the Temple Mount.

As the crow flies, the Slypers live not far from the Temple Mount, in the Ma’aleh Adumim neighborhood of Mitzpeh Nevo. Initially, they’d purchased their apartment – still in the blueprint stage – while vacationing in Israel, intending it as an investment. After reaching retirement age, they decided to live there permanently.

“It’s an ideal community, and we love it,” Slyper says.

The couple’s oldest daughter, Ronit, lives in Tel Aviv and works in hi-tech. Like her father, she loves hiking and is the author of the guidebook Tripping out of Tel Aviv. Day Hikes by Public Transportation in Central Israel.

Their next daughter, Yonina, lives in Netanya and is an international accountant for the Israeli company Nice.

Their third daughter, Avital, is a nurse practitioner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Next in line is Leeyat of Arlington, Virginia, who works in hi-tech. Their fifth daughter, Adina, is a nursing student living in Hashmonaim. The Slypers are grandparents of nine – five live in Israel and four in the United States.

The couple enjoy taking advantage of the learning opportunities in their community and beyond. “Israel is a very exciting country. There’s something happening all the time, usually positive but sometimes hair-raising,” Slyper sums up. “But over the long term, it all works out for the best.” ■