Re-falling in love with Israel: Two families tell why they made aliyah

Stories of two families that moved to Israel, realizing a dream that originated many years earlier.

RENDEL CHILDREN welcome their parents, 2016. (photo credit: BEN KELMER)
RENDEL CHILDREN welcome their parents, 2016.
(photo credit: BEN KELMER)
What motivates a move to Israel? It can be a desire driven by present-day events, but sometimes, it can be the fulfillment of a longstanding family wish. Following are the stories of two families that moved to Israel, realizing a dream that originated many years earlier.
WITH HIS distinctive New York accent and Ramat Bet Shemesh address, Aryeh Rendel, 64, looks and sounds like a typical middle-aged North American immigrant. Behind his seemingly average façade, however, he has a fascinating past that has connected both him and his family to the land of Israel since 1948.
Rendel’s parents were Holocaust survivors who had met in a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War II. They moved to Israel in 1948, and soon after arriving, Aryeh’s father was handed a rifle and went to fight in the War of Independence. Aryeh’s older sister was born in 1949, and he was born in 1954. Living in Israel in the 1950s was quite difficult.
“My father told me,” says Aryeh, “that the 12 years that they lived in Israel, between 1948 and 1960, were harder for him than the years of World War II. He had lost everyone during the war, and here he was with a young family and two kids and frequent air raids from another enemy – and with another chance of being annihilated.” In 1960, the Rendels left Ramat Gan and relocated to Brooklyn. Aryeh, who was five at the time, grew up in Boro Bark and Canarsie.
“I always planned to come back,” he says. Soon after their marriage in 1977, Aryeh and wife Shirley visited Israel, and upon returning to New York, decided to make aliyah.
“I re-fell in love with the country,” he recalls.
Aryeh and Shirley filled out the necessary aliyah paperwork for the Jewish Agency, but facing opposition from their parents, canceled their plans and stayed in the US. Yet, despite the fact that he was living in Forest Hills, Israel was always very much on Aryeh’s mind. The Rendels raised six children – four daughters and two sons – and says Aryeh, “The discussion at our Shabbat table was always, ‘We don’t belong here, we have a home, we belong there.’” They never pushed their children to move to Israel but encouraged them to make their own decisions.
In 1998, Rivka, their oldest daughter, and husband Noam made aliyah, moving to Ramat Bet Shemesh. Nine years later, in August 2007, Shoshana, their second daughter, and her husband Mati moved to Jerusalem. In July 2010, their third daughter, Yocheved, moved with her husband Davie to Ramat Bet Shemesh, and five years after that, in June 2015, their fourth daughter, Deena, together with her husband Scott and their family, moved to Ramat Bet Shemesh.
Finally, in May 2016, Aryeh and Shirley made aliyah. Aryeh recalls that before they moved, while cleaning their attic, they found the completed aliyah forms from 1977 that had never been turned in.
“I say to my wife that I always get everything done – sometimes it just takes me a long time. In this case, it took 43 years.”
In 2013, their younger son came to Israel to study and stayed, though he hadn’t made aliyah officially. He married two years ago, and formally made aliyah in November 2018. One son, Mikey, remained in the United States. The family circle of aliyah was completed this past November, when Mikey and wife Robin, together with their two children, made aliyah, and after spending two weeks in quarantine in the basement of his parents’ Ramat Bet Shemesh home, moved to their new home in Givat Shmuel.
The entire Rendel family is now at home in Israel. Aryeh says that he had “no idea” that his entire family would someday end up in Israel.
“I am extremely proud of our children that they all made the decision,” he says. “We encouraged them but never told them.”
Aryeh and Shirley are grateful for the assistance they received from Nefesh B’Nefesh and its partners.
“Nefesh B’Nefesh is a fabulous organization. They took a complicated system and streamlined it, made it simple.”
Their son Mikey, who arrived just a few weeks ago, says that Israel was always on his radar, as his siblings left, one at a time.
“Every family has its own story. For most of my family, it has been a goal for a long time. It was something we always wanted to do.”
Reflecting on the good fortune of living in Israel with his parents and all of his siblings, he adds, “To me, it’s something that didn’t make sense – that six children made it here. I know a lot of families with six children living in six different states. It’s shocking that all six managed to find our way to the same place. I would say that it’s almost a coincidence, but it’s definitely not. It’s a special thing.” IN 1941, 10-year-old Bernard Dov Tetner’s life was turned upside down when his family was forced into a ghetto in Transnistria by the Germans and Romanians. Miraculously, Tetner survived much: Nazi “actions,” hunger, cold, typhus and barbaric torture.
After the war, Bernard dreamed of settling in Israel and set out for Palestine with a group. After sailing for a month in horrible conditions, with the Jewish homeland in sight, the British refused them entry and sent them back to Europe. He then made his way to South America and settled in Caracas, Venezuela, where he met and married a Jewish woman from Morocco. Bernard became part of the then-prosperous Jewish community there and the family moved to Miami 20 years ago.
This year, all four of his granddaughters and their mother Luna moved to Israel in rapid succession. In June of this year, daughter Lucie Kinigsberg and her family moved to Israel, settling in Karmiel. In July, Luna’s youngest daughter, Rachel Hachem, moved to Jerusalem, and in August, sisters Deborah (with husband Haim Hiskiyahu) and Miriam (with husband Joe Goldglantz) arrived, moving to Ramat Bet Shemesh. Mother Luna followed, making aliyah in September with her husband Benni Keren and settling in Safed.
“Aliyah was always in the back of our minds,” says Lucie, 34.
“We loved Miami, but we always knew that our main goal was to come to Israel. We knew that sooner or later, this is home and that we needed to come back.” She enjoys living in Karmiel and says that the city has an excellent system for absorbing new immigrants.
Rachel spent a year studying in Israel at Tiferet Seminary in Ramat Bet Shemesh before deciding to make aliyah. Arriving in Israel in July, she is currently in the Sherut Leumi (National Service) program, working at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the pediatric emergency room. Both Lucie and Rachel speak highly of Nefesh B’Nefesh and the assistance that they provided them in their absorption into the country during this difficult time. Nefesh B’Nefesh arranged for a Spanish-speaking representative to visit Lucie, who helped them get settled. Rachel says that Nefesh B’Nefesh is most supportive of girls who are in the Sherut Leumi program.
“Before you make aliyah,” she muses, “you are idealistic. Once you do it, it becomes more ingrained in you, and it’s the only place you see being in your future.”
Like the Rendels, Rachel and her sister are tied to the heroic efforts of her grandfather to settle in Israel.
“Thank God, we were able to return for him. We are fulfilling a dream.”
LUCIE KINIGSBERG & family aliyah.LUCIE KINIGSBERG & family aliyah.
TWO FAMILIES have fulfilled the hopes and aspirations of their parents and grandparents and are now living in Israel. Before Aryeh Rendel’s daughter made aliyah in 2015, he held a sign aloft at the airport, with the words, “Living the Dream.” The sign now hangs prominently in their Ramat Bet Shemesh living room because, as he says, “We are living the dream.” For these families, their dreams became a reality.

This article was written in cooperation with Nefesh B’Nefesh and its partners, the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel and JNF-USA.