The right decision

After leaving the country to live in Europe for a few years, Yossi Cohen made aliya for the 2nd time and has no doubts about his final move.

Yossi Cohen Yoni's dad 521 (photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Yossi Cohen Yoni's dad 521
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
‘It’s not a job for an alcoholic,” says Yossi Cohen of his position as manager of the Carmel Winery shop in Zichron Ya’acov. He’s been there for three years now, after having made aliya in 2008 from Cheadle, Manchester, with his wife, Marilyn, and two sons.
Part of the job is giving the visitors a taste of the different wines available and, according to Cohen, one of the perks of the job is free access to as much wine as one wants.
Fortunately there are other activities that keep him busy including advising the many customers who find their way to his shop.
“We have three kinds of customers,” he says. “There are those who know nothing about wine and ask for help; those that think they know; and those that really know.”
Cohen is able to converse with them all, having acquired his social and people skills after a long career in the hotel industry. He is also very knowledgeable about wine, having studied the subject at a college in Ramat Gan.
When he came to live here five years ago, it was not his first stint as an Israeli. He had lived here before, having immigrated with his parents from Romania in 1963.
“I was eight years old and went into third grade,” he recalls. “We lived in Neveh Sharett [neighborhood in Tel Aviv], in a fourth-floor room-and-a-half walkup.
My father had made prosthetic limbs for a living in Romania, but here he worked in a factory making oil filters for cars.”
He remembers his hardworking father bringing parts to assemble at home to earn some overtime, and sitting on the balcony working into the night.
The whole family would help him so, in fact, Cohen says he was working from the age of eight.
“We were happy. People didn’t complain in those days,” he says. His mother died when he was 15, and as soon as he could he left school to work and help support the family.
“I decided I wanted to work in hotels,” he said. “I found a onestar hotel in the Ben-Yehuda/ Yarkon area [in Tel Aviv] and started there as a night receptionist.
I met some very unsavory characters but soon learned how to handle them.”
He feels his development of people skills began here and he fell in love with the profession, doing every job possible, from cleaning the rooms to preparing the breakfasts. Eventually, he became manager of a more respectable place in Tel Aviv, where he met Marilyn – who came from Manchester and who was working there, too.
“I loved what I was doing, but in those days the tourists were different. Travel was expensive in the ’70s and you got a better class of people.”
In 1987, he decided to take his family and try life in Manchester for a while.
“I always had a bug in my head to live in Europe,” he says. ”I was beginning to get fed up with the attitude of people and the heat was becoming oppressive.”
Cohen wanted to stay in the catering industry, and he and Marilyn found just the place – a kosher delicatessen which was on its last legs, but ready for an injection of life and business acumen.
“We turned it into a center for the whole community,” he says. “We saw the need for Jewish greetings cards, and eventually we were bringing in all sorts of Judaica to sell, and then prayer books and gifts for the festivals.”
He branched out into wholesale and began importing kosher delicacies. Then he saw a market for supplying coloring books at gas stations, so that children on long journeys would have something to do.
The business flourished and they lived a comfortable Jewish life in Manchester. Marilyn was the head of the ladies’ guild at their local synagogue and Cohen took care of security. But he was getting itchy feet.
“I was beginning to miss Israel terribly,” he says. “I would sit and listen to Israeli singers and I found I had tears in my eyes.”
He told Marilyn how he felt and that the time had come to go back, and she went along with his decision.
Cohen began to look into the possibilities of making aliya, and heard about a new housing project in Zichron Ya’acov. He realized that he could have a very high standard of living in Israel thanks to the good exchange rate at the time, and he and Marilyn could buy a very attractive home in the town.
“I didn’t really care what I was going to do, I just knew it had to be no more than 20 minutes from my home,” says Cohen.
After trying several other ventures, he landed the job in the winery and his two sons, Yaniv and Yoni, each found satisfying work. Marilyn is still not entirely sure they made the right move, and misses her life in Manchester.
But for Cohen, he has no doubts he made the right decision.
“I love what I do, I really enjoy meeting new people all the time – and I learn something new every day,” he says.