Dori Gould arrived in Israel with a menagerie of five cats and five dogs (two Egyptian street cats, three rescue cats and five rescue dogs from Arkansas). When Dori told the Jewish Agency she wanted to make aliya, but only if she could bring her pets with her, the emissary responded: "Well some people bring 10 children so I don't see why you can't bring 10 animals!" The menagerie duly arrived in July 2003 on a Nefesh B'Nefesh flight and are now happily ensconced in a spacious house in verdant Ma'aleh Adumim where, says Dori, they get along better than ever.
Dori grew up in Los Angeles in a totally secular family.
"There was hardly anything Jewish or Zionist in our family. We didn't go to synagogue and didn't fast on Yom Kippur, but we knew we were Jews. My mother pledged money to Jewish causes and my father liked to say that we were 'cultural Jews,'" says Dori with a smile.
Dori's passion for animals derives from her mother's side, the Lithuanian Glazer line.
"As far back as my great-grandmother, the Glazers were always surrounded by pets."
In a perfect match, Dori's high school was based in the middle of the Los Angeles Zoo and she and her classmates were permitted to take their pets to school. At the age of 10, Dori decided she wanted to become an archeologist. She earned her MA and PhD in archeology, spatial technology and environmental dynamics at the University of Arkansas and did field work over a 10-year period in southern Egypt.
Ironically, it was in Arkansas - a state with no more than 4,000 Jews - that Dori began to discover Jewish traditions.
"I had my very first Shabbat dinner in Arkansas. It was with a Reform family, but they blessed their children and I had never seen anything so beautiful."
After completing her studies, Dori moved east to be near her parents, who had retired to upstate New York and through the Woodstock Jewish Reconstructionist community, she came on a solidarity mission to Israel in 2002.
"That was the first time I felt a connection to Israel and I decided this was where I wanted to live."
The logistics of making aliya with 10 animals were partially eased when Dori found a chartered flight with Nefesh B'Nefesh.
A 14-person van with seats removed carried the menagerie to the airport, where a dolly specially constructed by Dori's father wheeled in the five dogs in their carriers, one cat carrier perched on each dog. Since airline rules permitted no more than one cat per cabin per person, Nefesh B'Nefesh found four volunteers to take Dori's cats.
"These total strangers had to take the cats out of their carriers to go through security... it was terrifying, but everything went smoothly and I even found one of my cats sitting contentedly, in an open carrier, on a passenger seat."
A minibus awaited Dori at Ben-Gurion Airport to ferry her menagerie to Ma'aleh Adumim.
Dori's first 48 hours in Israel were surprisingly difficult. Within an hour of unloading her cargo at the house she had rented over the Internet, Dori was ordered to leave the premises by an irate landlord who claimed he did not know she intended to bring so many pets.
"I was hysterical and had no idea where to go. The sub-tenant had said she would arrange cat litter for me, but there was none and I was terrified that my cats, who hadn't peed in 24 hours, would get kidney damage."
By chance, Carol Kramer, AACI director of operations, dropped by to see how Dori was doing. On learning of the crisis, she informed the landlord he had no right to put Dori out on the street, called in a realtor to find alternative accommodation, and went to purchase much-needed cat litter. Two days later, Dori moved into her present spacious house.
"Those first hours in Israel were so awful, they inoculated me against all the frustrations of aliya!"
The welcome Dori received from the Ma'aleh Adumim community soon made up for her initial trauma: "I was blessed. I found the perfect community - warm, religious and very doggy!"
Two chiming clocks - one with cat chimes and one with dog chimes - greet visitors to Dori's pleasant four-bedroom house, which has a garden and a stunning view of the Judean hills.
"It's embarrassing to have such a house to myself as I know many large families have much less," says Dori, "but it's what I needed for my pets."
Despite her impressive credentials, Dori has still not found work in her field. Projects at the Hebrew University and Mitzpe Rimon Science Center did not materialize or had to be put on hold due to lack of funds but, undeterred, Dori cheerfully signed up for an 18-month government program training Anglos as English teachers. She also works part-time in the local health food store.
"My routine centers around the insulin shots I have to give 13-year-old Mo, one of my Egyptian cats. I get up at 5 a.m., give him his shot, feed the animals, then take two buses to school in Jerusalem. I get back around 5 p.m., in time for the second shot and often do an evening shift's work at the health food store. For fun, I see friends, read or talk on the phone."
Dori's friends are mostly Anglos and pet people.
"Nearly everyone I know is Orthodox. I am invited every Shabbat to people's homes and my own house is like the local petting zoo. I can never give back as much to the community, but I am now helping other new immigrants settle in Ma'aleh Adumim."
"I am slowly getting a handle on Hebrew. I have stopped telling clients in the store that we stock lehem shafan (rabbit bread) instead of lehem shifon (rye bread)."
"One of the greatest ironies of being in Israel is the lack of choice in how to worship if you are not Orthodox. I have trouble with Orthodox services, but I love the community. I am learning about Jewish traditions and am quite happy being a cultural Jew."
"I am an Anglo ola hadasha (new immigrant) in all that it entails. I am still insulated in the Anglo world but feel very connected to Israel."
"I live off savings, as my salary and training stipend do not cover my living costs. I also try very hard to keep my bills low. I buy pet food in bulk to get massive discounts. I get bulk discounts at the vet. I hardly use the air conditioner and, being a vegetarian, I eat lots of cheap vegetables."
"I'd like to get a job that actually supports me but beyond that, I want to be able to use my unique qualifications to make a difference.
"I was a Pessah baby and I feel that if I left Egypt to come to Israel, it's in order to do something special and if I can get young people involved in community projects that make use of spatial technologies and improve the environment, that would be wonderful."