‘Arise, walk in the land to its length and to its breadth, for I will give it to you” (Genesis 13:17).
“I am a biker,” says Shai Rubin. “Three or four days a week, early in the morning, a friend and I bike the trails around Beit Shemesh. One of my favorite rides is through the gorgeous Sorek Valley. On every ride one of us calls out, ‘Man, we’re so blessed. Look how beautiful this is.’ The trail runs along fields where you can see so much growing – watermelons, citrus, corn, and even cotton appearing out of dark maroon red flowers.”
Often driving north, Shai stops to ride. He has biked along the coast toward Haifa, around Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), to the Golan Heights, up the Menara Cliff overseeing Kiryat Shmona. At the top of the trail, the panoramic view evokes a feeling of gratitude. On Fridays he sometimes rides the popular biking trails or single tracks with friends.
Southward to Eilat, through the Negev, he stops at his favorite places. “I love the single tracks in Timna Park and any of the Israel Bike Trails in the South,” he says. “There is beauty in the bleakness of the desert that draws me to bike there.”
Shai has mountain biked hundreds of kilometers in all directions through different terrains, different worlds. It can be exhilarating, peaceful, spiritual.
“I am connected to this land,” says Shai, a 38-year-old father of four.
SHAI WORKS as a property manager in Jerusalem.
Shortly after making aliyah he interviewed for a position in the Old City of Jerusalem, near the Kotel, the Western Wall.
“I could have worked in the Old City, but they didn’t need me after all. That was a lucky miss,” he recalls. “If I worked there, visiting the Kotel would not be the significant, holy experience it is for me. It would become mundane.
“The Kotel is Mount Moriah, it’s a sacred beacon, it’s a level beyond me, beyond us. I’m glad I still have that.”
As a property manager Shai takes care of vacation homes for those owners who live abroad.
“I was surprised at how many apartments are left empty for part of the year and are only used on holidays and extended stays. But I realize that each home is an emotional space, and the owners want it to be kept immaculate in the holiest of cities,” he says.
His work in Jerusalem brings him in contact with many different people, and he has a natural affinity for others. He has that friendly, social personality, an easy way of relating, and a way of understanding and accommodating people.
Shai is dedicated to details and an expert in taking care of all emergencies.
HE GREW UP in South Africa until the age of 11 and then moved to Irvine, California, to live with his father. His parents had divorced. After moving again a number of times, they settled in Milwaukee.
After high school Shai studied at Yeshivat Ohr David in Jerusalem. He enjoyed spending time with his aunt and cousins in Kfar Saba and they have become close.
Shai returned to Milwaukee to study nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Why did he choose nursing?
“My father was a healthy man who became very sick, bedbound and in a wheelchair when I was in high school. I wanted to become a nurse to help my father. In my final year, though, I decided to change my major, and I graduated with a degree in healthcare administration and became a nursing home administrator.”
An active volunteer in NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth), Shai often visited Chicago, where he met his wife, Leah.
Born in Dallas, Texas, she was 10 years old when her family spent a sabbatical year in Jerusalem, in Har Nof. Afterward they moved to Chicago. Leah graduated from the International Academy of Design and Technology.
They were married in 2007 in Chicago, where Shai worked as a nursing home administrator. Eventually they moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and in 2012 Shai and Leah and their two children made aliyah from Atlanta to Beit Shemesh. Their family has since grown and now includes two more children.
Leah works as a freelance graphic and web designer. Her parents are both retired psychology professors who are planning to make aliyah and live nearby.
Shai says, “It’s a blessing, a gift, to have such amazing, loving in-laws.”
He has a brother and sister who still live in the Midwest. In Johannesburg, South Africa, his brother Craig is an architect, and his sister Karli is a doctor who currently works in the intensive care unit and COVID-19 ward. His mother, Ziona, who also lives in Johannesburg, is very proud of her children.
Giving his time to charity is an important part of his life. Shai does two charity bike rides a year.
One is Wheels of Love for ALYN Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel’s only pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation hospital.
He also volunteers and rides to raise funds for Geerz, a well-known, nonprofit organization that coordinates mountain biking programs for young people. Geerz provides therapeutic programming, leadership skills and connects youth spiritually to the Land of Israel.
“I raise money for Geerz to help kids learn critical skills so they can succeed in life,” explains Shai. “To raise money and enable kids to join the program who otherwise wouldn’t be able to, well, that’s what it’s all about.”
Shai’s equanimity and calmness work well in parenting.
“I feel my wife and I have solid priorities,” he says. “It’s really important to have a wide spectrum of life experiences. Leah and I do our best to guide our children, to instill values we believe in. Over the years, I’ve changed and I haven’t changed. There is a natural progression that comes with getting older and, of course, parenting. There is more focus, more understanding.
“Making aliyah presents the greatest challenges and the greatest rewards. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”