Arrivals: A dream come true

David Riflin, 58, moved from London to Ra'anana in 2010.

David Rivlin 521 (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
David Rivlin 521
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Most people who move to Israel at the age of 58 would probably be considering early retirement. But David Rivlin, who made aliya with his wife, Fran, almost two years ago, has no intention of sitting back and doing nothing, or simply volunteering as many do.
“I would like to be able to use my skills and experience for the benefit of the Israeli economy,” says the Dublin-born Rivlin, who studied engineering science and had a peripatetic career, ultimately specializing in general management of fast-moving consumer goods.
After the initial six months, in which he and his wife took time out to relax and enjoy living in Israel – the 11th country in which they’ve lived – he is now seriously job-hunting, using all of the most up-to-date techniques: online recruitment sites, contacting head-hunters at the highest levels, and networking, in the hope of finding the perfect job.
“I’m quietly confident,” he says.
Most importantly he has realized that having good Hebrew is essential, especially at the level at which he wants to operate, so he is throwing himself into learning the language.
“It’s probably been the most difficult thing,” he says. “I would say that at this age, learning the language is a challenge.”
So far, he’s done a five-month ulpan course and a summer course at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
“I can understand more than I speak,” he says.
But he is used to new beginnings, and compared to some of the other countries in which he’s lived, Israel is relatively easy, he says. After working in the electronics industry for a few years after graduating, he worked for several beer production companies and had to live in many countries for extended periods.
“I was general manager of a beer production plant in Angola, brewery manger in St. Petersburg, and I built a plant in Tashkent,” he says. He and his wife have also lived in Uzbekistan, South America and Malawi, as well as several European countries. So aliya is an easy ride, especially as they have had an apartment in Ra’anana for some years and have visited often.
“I’d heard terrible things about the bureaucracy once one became an oleh, but we found it relatively easy,” he says.
Their three children were always independent growing up, going to a Jewish boarding school in the UK from the age of nine and traveling out to exotic destinations during vacations. Being here without them is difficult at times, but keeping in touch is not the way it was when he and his wife first went overseas in 1981.
“We used to make a three-minute call to our parents once a week,” he recalls. Today, with instant communication and Skype, separation and distance are not the problems they used to be.
“Getting back to Britain is not a major issue, either,” he says. “We are an international family, and we all get itchy if we’re not on an airplane every month or so.”
The children are now all successful professionals, and none has plans to come here – yet.
“They have all done well, and we are proud of their achievements,” he says.
He has found the organization Gvahim very helpful and went through one of its programs for several months soon after arriving. Gvahim, an independent nonprofit, was established to help highly qualified professionals find appropriate work.
“The people who are helped by Gvahim are usually successful people who have given up careers to come here,” he explains. “It’s the opposite of the brain drain, and in Gvahim it’s called ‘brain gain.’ The organization helps with training, networking and placement tools.”
He devotes some of his time to fund-raising for the organization, which he believes is doing a great job for immigrants like him.
While much of the day is spent in the pursuit of work, he has also found time to get involved in Esravision, the community television program put out by Esra (English Speaking Residents Association). Filming has always been a hobby, so he was happy to use these skills in helping to put out several programs.
He and his wife have also spent some of their free time traveling around the country, and enjoy eating out. They have made many friends and have no regrets.
Rivlin has several words of advice for other immigrants who find themselves in a situation similar to his: “When the initial elation wears off, the reality of living here sets in, and you may be tempted to go back if things are tough. You have to sit down and remind yourself why you came in the first place.”
He also strongly advises anyone contemplating aliya to do their planning before they come.
“We were prepared for all eventualities, including the fact that we could live here without working so I could take my time looking for the ideal job,” he says.
“I always wanted to live here,” he adds. “As a young man, I wanted to study at the Technion, but I couldn’t afford it. Then I married and the years passed. This is a dream come true for me.”