A Seattle immigrant's dogged determination

Less than a year after making aliya Gad Ben Rosen is learning Hebrew and has started a new business while traversing Israel's infamous bureaucracy.

seattle immigrant metro  (photo credit: Judy Lash Balint)
seattle immigrant metro
(photo credit: Judy Lash Balint)
MAKING A SPLASH. Ben Rosen (left) on opening day of his Ra'anana-based dog care enterprise. Judy Lash Balint Less than two years ago Martin Pittman sat across the table from me at a Seattle cafe and asked if I thought he'd make it in Israel. A single man in his mid-forties, he had fallen in love with Israel on his one visit to the country, and was aching to figure out a way to make Israel his home. He figured I might have some words of wisdom about the challenges involved, as a fellow immigrant from Seattle who also made aliya alone in my mid-forties some eight years earlier. I remember telling him about the cost of living here; social and religious life; and above all emphasizing the difficult question of making a living. Pittman was brimming with ideas based on his very varied previous work experience in Hawaii and Seattle, but ultimately focused on one innovative concept that we both felt had the potential for success. Two weeks ago, less than a year after he stepped off the Nefesh B'Nefesh plane at Ben-Gurion airport, Pittman - known in his new life as Gad Ben Rosen - hosted the festive opening of Petsplash, his new American-style dog care business in downtown Ra'anana. Dozens of friends and acquaintances came to show support, and brought their dogs to be professionally hosed-down and cared for by Ben Rosen and his enthusiastic young trainees. The colorful facility features three dog-size bathtubs and hoses; a ramp for the dogs to get up to the tubs and an outside courtyard where the freshly-bathed canines can safely shake off and shed. Ben Rosen spent the first 10 months of his life in Israel at the immigrant absorption center in Ra'anana, acclimating to Israeli society, learning Hebrew and planning his business. Dozens of fellow olim as well as staff from the center showed up to congratulate him on the opening. Ulpan teachers and administrators lavished praise on the former Seattleite, who they said went out of his way to welcome olim who arrived after he did. He is a regular at the Kinor David congregation, where members traditionally extend a warm welcome to new immigrants. Several families from the synagogue showed up to watch as their rabbi Zvi Koren affixed a mezuza to the door of the new business, as Ben Rosen recited the blessing. The Petsplash owner recounted how he had bought the mezuza in Jerusalem's Old City when he first decided to make aliya. The store's counter was built from the wooden shipping crate that brought his belongings from Seattle. In Seattle, he was a community activist, serving on the Ballard Community Council as well as a coordinator with the Flexcar program. In keeping with his community-minded ethos, Ben Rosen decided to donate the entire proceedings of his opening day to the Benji Hillman Foundation (http://www.benjihillman.org) in memory of the IDF commander from Ra'anana who was killed in last summer's Second Lebanon War just three weeks after his wedding. Hillman's mother, aunt, sister and several cousins who came to the opening expressed their appreciation for Ben Rosen's efforts and the significant sum raised from the day. Many of the dog-owners who brought their pets for a cleanup obviously delighted in talking shop with the knowledgeable proprietor, who seemed to know everything about how to make a dog feel good. And what about the legendary Israeli bureaucracy, that can stymie the most persistent businessperson? He had nothing but praise for the people at city hall who facilitated the arcane permit process, as well as for his professional advisers and friends who enabled a new immigrant with limited Hebrew but endless determination to embark on an innovative venture in his adoptedcommunity.