Aliyah for a dream job: Managing one of Israel's best luxury hotels

Eyal Goldberger packed up his family in Florida and moved to a Jerusalem suburb within three months of getting a dream job.

 EYAL GOLDBERGER, 42 From Miami to Mevaseret Zion, 2022 (photo credit: Marketing Alrov)
EYAL GOLDBERGER, 42 From Miami to Mevaseret Zion, 2022
(photo credit: Marketing Alrov)

Technically speaking, Eyal Goldberger is a returning citizen, not an immigrant. But because he was 12 when his family left Tivon for Miami 30 years ago, being Israeli is a new experience for him.

His parents, who made aliyah from Russia and Ukraine and then moved to Miami to live near his mother’s sister, spoke to him in Russian. He retained his Hebrew and is fully trilingual – with a little Spanish thrown in as well. 

Coming back to live in his native land wasn’t in Goldberger’s plans. He’d visited only “a handful of times over the years.” 

However, he always felt a connection to Israel, which was strengthened when he married an American woman born to Israeli expats.

“My wife, Karen, spent her childhood summers in Israel. When we got married, we never talked about moving, but we did talk about giving our kids that special Israeli summer experience like she had,” he says.

“My wife, Karen, spent her childhood summers in Israel. When we got married, we never talked about moving, but we did talk about giving our kids that special Israeli summer experience like she had.”

Eyal Goldberger

Returning to Israel with family in tow

Goldberger earned a degree in hospitality management from Florida International University and spent the past 17 years in Florida’s hotel industry, working for chains such as Marriott and Hyatt. 

The David Citadel Hotel (credit: AMIT GIRON)The David Citadel Hotel (credit: AMIT GIRON)

Last year, he was contacted by a recruiter who offered him the opportunity to apply for the job of general manager of Jerusalem’s David Citadel Hotel.

“I came to my wife and said, ‘We’re moving to Israel,’ and she said ‘Okay,’ just like that,” Goldberger recalls. 

The hiring process took several months, after which time the family – including two preschoolers – visited the hotel last April. 

“I saw that my future could be here, and I gave my final stamp of approval,” he says. “And I think we made the quickest aliyah ever. From the day I accepted the position to moving here was three months.”

The paperwork for a returning citizen with a new immigrant wife and kids can be tricky, but the Goldbergers hired Laura Itzhaki from Olim Advisers to deal with that. “She took care of everything for us; the whole process was so streamlined,” he says. 

Though they have relatives in the center and north of Israel, the Goldbergers clearly needed to choose a residence in or near Jerusalem. They rented a home in Mevaseret Zion. 

“We didn’t know anyone there. But we have great neighbors. I truly love the sense of community and belonging and how kid-friendly the country is in welcoming families. The kids can just go over to the neighbors and get fed,” Goldberger says. “Children are a lot more independent here than in the States. They are enjoying Israeli life and culture.”

HIS DAUGHTER, now four and a half, and his son, two and a half, are adjusting to pre-school and are learning Hebrew. 

“Karen and I are both fluent Hebrew speakers, so it’s ironic that we never spoke Hebrew at home to our own children and we had to move all the way to Israel to have them learn Hebrew,” Goldberger jokes. 

“Our parents were extremely sad that we were leaving but really proud. Everything comes around full circle. My parents wanted to give me a better education in the States, and here I am taking my kids back to Israel and giving them a completely different experience.”

His job as general manager of a 385-room luxury hotel keeps him busy most days from 8:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night. He works closely with the 500 employees to ensure “that we give the luxury service the David Citadel is known for, the best in class in Israel.”

Some of the famous guests so far in his tenure have been boxer Floyd Mayweather, Latvian President Egils Levits and various ambassadors. The hotel attracts a mostly American clientele, with some international and Israeli guests at various times of the year.

While her husband is settling into his routine at the hotel, Karen Goldberger is settling herself and the children into a routine at home. The family has yet to receive a single piece of snail mail – including the permanent drivers’ licenses the couple paid for. They recently cracked the mystery of why nothing was arriving. 

“Our mailbox is in the center of the neighborhood, not near our house. We put our name inside the mailbox next to our landlord’s name. One day recently, my wife happened to be walking by when the mailman came to the mailboxes, and she asked why we weren’t getting our mail. He told her that he’s been sending it back. When Karen pointed out that our name is in the mailbox, he said he’s been doing this route for 20 years and our name didn’t ring a bell, so he assumed it was a mistake,” Goldberger explained.

At the time of writing, the family still hasn’t received any mail. It may be frustrating, but it sure makes for a good aliyah story.

Whenever Goldberger has a day off, he takes the family touring.

“We’re making it a point to see the country. We got a membership in the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and we enjoy going to national parks. The beauty of living near Jerusalem is that there are great parks and outdoor activities right in our backyard. We’ve gone to Castel many times and to Nahal Halilim, Ein Hemed, the Stalactite Caves near Beit Shemesh, and north to the Galilee,” he says. 

“I love that the country is big enough to be able to enjoy all types of things, from beaches to deserts to hiking, all in the same day. I also enjoy the fact that the culture is very spontaneous. In the States, it’s a joke that you have to make plans with friends three weeks in advance. Here, you just walk over to neighbors and make plans on the spot.”

Although he is “a huge fan of shawarma and knafeh,” Goldberger misses American fast food. “A good chicken sandwich from Chik-Fil-A or a sub from Publix – there’s nothing close to that here,” he says, 

Nevertheless, he says he and Karen are “happy about our decision to make aliyah.” 

In fact, one of the perks of his job is that many American Jewish Federation officials stay at the David Citadel, “and I love to be able to connect with them and share my story with them and show them how easy and impactful it can be to move here.” ■

EYAL GOLDBERGER, 42 From Miami to Mevaseret Zion, 2022