Living in Israel: More than a pipe dream

Dov Izikowitz, 47, from Johannesburg to Givat Olga, 2009.

Dov Izikowitz (photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Dov Izikowitz
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
With his long bushy beard, Dov Izikowitz could easily be mistaken for a rabbi. Actually, he is a plumber.
Seven years ago he left his successful plumbing business in Johannesburg and made aliya. He opened the same business in Israel, operating from his home in Givat Olga.
Many of his customers are Anglos, as the only real advertising he does is in the AACI and Hitachdut Olei Britannia publications and websites.
“My customers know about me mostly by word of mouth,” says the 47-yearold South African, who led an adventurous life before finding religion and settling down.
He spends his time answering the calls of distressed clients suffering from blocked drains and leaky taps, many of whom have been recommended by friends and clients.
“I must admit that when you call for a plumber, you don’t expect someone like me to walk in,” says Izikowitz with a smile.
“But after a few minutes people get used to me and the initial shock wears off.”
He loves meeting people and considers the social contacts he makes as one of the perks of the job.
He was born into a traditional Jewish family in South Africa and first came to Israel straight after high school, spending time on a kibbutz, from 1988 to 1989.
After the year was up, he returned to the family plumbing business and enjoyed learning the ropes.
“I started off as an apprentice and learned the business from the bottom up. We worked on big projects – hotels, clinics, large buildings,” he says.
“I was always good with my hands,” says Izikowitz, “and I liked the problem- solving, which I found creative.”
While working, he studied at a technical college, earning the right plumbing credentials, but as soon as he qualified, he set off on his travels, going first to Europe and then heading for the Far East.
“I was backpacking for several years, picking countries that were cheap to live in – India, Nepal, Australia,” he says.
“When I ran out of money, I worked until I had enough to carry on.”
Looking back, he seems to find it painful to face the fact that he was very far away from Judaism.
Eventually, he got involved with Native Americans, and became apprentice to a medicine man, totally immersing himself in the Native American way of life. He went through the purification ceremonies of sweat lodges and other rites of passage of young men in the tribes.
“The magic and mystery attracted me,” he says, “but I was getting further and further away from my roots.”
He recalls his mother’s words of wisdom spoken to him in those lost years.
“She told me that what I was looking for was right in front of me,” he says, “but I could not see it then.”
The non-Jewish girl he had been with for 12 years and whom he had wanted to marry left him.
“I was devastated,” he recalls. “Thank God we had no children together.”
He recalls that it was a very low time in his life.
“But my prayers were answered,” he says.
The girl he did eventually marry, Shira, an Israeli, was visiting her grandparents in South Africa and they were introduced by a friend.
“God picked us up and put us together,” he says with emotion.
After the many years of being distant from Judaism and having only his meditation for spiritual comfort, he found his way slowly back to his roots.
“I was at the funeral of my uncle and the rabbi officiating was Alex Carlebach, (the nephew of the famous singing rabbi, Shlomo) and I suddenly realized that for the first time in my life I was listening to a rabbi speak and it was making sense,” he says.
Rabbi Carlebach agreed to marry the couple and invited them to spend Simhat Torah with him in the congregation he headed in Johannesburg.
“One day, even while we were still not keeping kosher, we decided that we would keep Shabbat,” recalls Izikowitz.
“It was a very fulfilling experience for us and afterwards we wondered how we had managed to live up till then without be- ing Shomrei Shabbat [Shabbat observant],” he says.
They decided to become fully observant, and have never looked back.
Eventually, not long after making aliya, they settled in Givat Olga on the suggestion of another rabbi, who thought they could make a contribution to the community there.
Today the household consists of their four children, two boys of 11 and nine, two girls of five and three and Shira’s daughter from her first marriage to a Rastafarian.
“It has not been a very easy aliya,” says Izikowitz, “and there have been many ups and downs building a new life here in Israel.”
Shira works as a massage therapist and Dov is always in demand for his plumbing skills, working hard and traveling anywhere where the work is to be found.
“Hashem [God] has been with us the whole way,” says Izikowitz contentedly.