When Danny Nir was five, his parents moved from Israel to New York. When Moira Marx was eight, her parents decided against a move from Pennsylvania to Israel. And so the future spouses grew up in the American Northeast. Their four children, however, are being raised in Moreshet, a bucolic little town near Haifa.
Born in 1963 and wed in 1988, the Nirs arrived in Israel with realistic expectations and a cheerful determination to become successful citizens.
"I had no desire to make aliya when I was eight," Moira recalls. It was then that her parents were mulling a job offer her father had received in Israel. Ultimately, they remained in Warminster, Pennsylvania, where Moira and her sister Adina attended Hebrew school at a Conservative synagogue.
Moira came to Israel at 17 for a Weizmann Institute summer program. "I decided then that I had to live here," Moira says. "I felt this was the place that Jews should be."
Danny's yearning for his homeland had never left him. "I was Zionistic for as long as I can remember," he says, recalling that even as a third-grader at a Queens day school he started feeling conflicted about where his true home was.
He later took an active role in Chevrat Aliya Toranit (CAT) and spent several summers in Israel on young leadership programs.
After earning a bachelor's degree in computer science at Queens College in 1986, Danny established a garin aliya, a "seed group" preparing for a move to Israel. It was dubbed the June 25 Movement.
"Having learned from previous garinim that wasted a lot of time on issues like deciding on a name and where to live, I insisted that ours would have no name and would focus on a particular time to go - June 25, 1989 - rather than to a particular locale," he says.
All 20 members of the garin did make aliya, but none on the target date. Danny had a good reason for postponing his move.
MARRIAGE AND MOVING
Both Moira and Danny exclusively dated prospective mates who were planning aliya. By summer of 1987, Danny felt he had met every like-minded girl in New York City. On a young leadership mission in Israel, a fellow participant told him about Moira, whom she'd known at the University of Pennsylvania. Moira was by then studying chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but Danny was willing to travel.
On their first date in September 1987, Danny informed Moira of his aliya date. "It was a year and a half away, and I thought he was joking," recalls Moira, "but then I realized he was totally serious."
Following a long-distance courtship during which Danny got a master's degree in computer science, they married and moved to Brookline, Mass. Aliya was put on hold until 1991, when Moira would complete her PhD. On his originally planned aliya date, Danny recited the liturgical formula for absolution of vows.
Meanwhile, the newlyweds returned to Queens one weekend every month for garin meetings. Speakers addressed practical aspects of aliya and life in Israel.
"They basically discussed how difficult it was going to be and how you'd overcome problems," Danny says. "We learned what to expect and how to deal with it."
Firstborn Avital arrived in 1990. During the summer of 1991, Moira arranged for post-doctoral work at the Technion in Haifa. "We did not feel a need to be in Jerusalem," says Moira. "We felt that anywhere in Israel was good."
The Nirs' October 25 flight was fogged in, so they stayed another night with Danny's parents in Queens and flew out the following morning. When they were ushered into Ben-Gurion Airport's immigration office, they had been up for 36 straight hours. But they were still sharp enough to realize something was amiss.
"The poor fellow doing the aliya paperwork at 4 a.m. had documents listing Moira as a Bulgarian man," says Danny. "While we were in his office, he managed to divorce us twice, change Avital's sex to male, and change our nationality to Russian and finally American."
At last, they boarded an airport taxi with their nine big cardboard boxes, and headed to Moira's sister and her family in nearby Rehovot. After a few days they started their search for an apartment in Naveh Sha'anan, a neighborhood near the Technion where there were several other religious English-speakers.
Moira felt fine until a trip to the grocery three weeks after they arrived. "I didn't understand what the cashier was saying, and she wasn't very nice to me. I walked out and burst into tears, and realized that the trauma of moving had set in," Moira remembers.
But she soon settled into her routine at the Technion. In the six weeks before their lift arrived, Danny bundled Avital into a baby carrier nearly every day and traveled around getting their affairs in order.
"I looked like a single father with his baby in a sling, and as I went from one office to another, people frequently let me go to the front of the line," says Danny.
One time, coming back from Tel Aviv in pouring rain, the Egged bus driver even insisted on depositing the Nirs - his final passengers - right at their doorstep.
Danny's first job was in Jerusalem, then a three-and-a-half-hour commute each way by public transportation. Soon he found a position closer to home in Haifa.
In 1993, son Gilad was born. The following Pessah, the Nirs joined Garin Tikva, a group of 30 families living in a caravan park near Acre while waiting for their houses to be built in nearby Moreshet overlooking the Haifa Bay.
The mobile homes leaked a bit, and the kids had to be bathed in laundry tubs. "It was actually fun - like summer camp for three years," says Moira, who gave birth to Yoav in 1996.
Before and after the move to Moreshet, the garin benefited from the Nirs' ready willingness to help in the community-building endeavor.
"We're now close to 200 families and we're building a fourth neighborhood," says Danny, a recent hi-tech layoff victim after 20 years in project management.
Moreshet has a school and basic amenities for its generally national-religious Ashkenazi and Sephardi families. While the communal social hall doubles as a synagogue, local leaders are seeking a donor to finance a real beit knesset.
The older Nir children take music lessons in neighboring towns. The youngest, 10-year-old Gidon, has yet to start. Avital, a violinist, just completed a year of National Service working with immigrants interested in converting to Judaism.
Moira works part time for a nanotech company and also consults in the field of plastics and polymers. "If you need a person to help you find the right material for a medical device, call Moira," quips her husband.
Since 2002, Moira's mother has lived in Rehovot near her older daughter.
A supportive network of friends or family is critical to a successful aliya, say the Nirs. "If you know others who have overcome the bumps in the road, you can reach out to them when you encounter your own obstacles," says Danny.
Their overall advice: "Live the dream."