Veterans: All in good time

Marc Kischel,68, from Passaic, NJ to Jerusalem 1993 & Adina Mishkoff Kischel, 65 from New York to Jerusalem, 1985.

Marc and Adina Kischel (photo credit: NITZI ILAN)
Marc and Adina Kischel
(photo credit: NITZI ILAN)
Neither marriage nor aliya came quickly to Marc and Adina Mishkoff Kischel.
Adina was 58 and Marc was 61 when they got married in 2009, each for the first time. And despite early, positive experiences of Israel in their teen years, neither made aliya until later in life.
Marc remembers bringing dimes to his afternoon Talmud Torah in the 1950s. Each dime bought a sticker, which went on a picture of a tree. With 20 stickers, you could buy a tree for the Jewish National Fund to plant in Israel.
When he was growing up, his parents were supportive of the young country.
At age 16, he and his younger sister were sent on a teen trip for 10 weeks. His strongest impression was olfactory.
“I remember the smell. Israel doesn’t smell the same as where I grew up.”
Expecting Israel to look like a Jewish ghetto in Europe, Marc “was very surprised that it appeared nonreligious – Israel as a nation, not Israel as a religion. Very few people wore yarmulkes. It seemed like a regular country. It just made Israel real to me. I definitely got an awakening there. I liked it in Israel, but I wasn’t conscious at the time that the seeds [of aliya] were being planted.”
Charmed by the juxtaposition of an American pop song being marketed in Hebrew, he bought a record of Gene Pitney singing “24 Hours from Tulsa,” a song that was popular in the States at the time. He still has that record.
In 1973, Marc spent the summer studying at the Hebrew University. When he returned to the US, he began the aliya process. Vague plans, a not-particularly encouraging emissary and parents who were less than enthusiastic about his decision led him to shelve thoughts of aliya for almost 20 years.
The aliya dream was reignited in 1991, during a visit with his niece. Still single, Marc followed up that trip with a sixmonth trial run to see if he’d be able to get by in Israel without speaking much Hebrew. This time, his parents gave their blessing and he officially made aliya in 1993.
By contrast, Adina’s parents met through Hashomer Hadati, a Zionist religious youth movement that existed before the founding of the state.
“I was born into a house imbued with love for the Land of Israel and yearning for living here.” Her elementary school yeshiva education was “Ivrit b’Ivrit” – taught in Hebrew.
In August 1966, the Mishkoff family rented an apartment in the Sha’arei Hessed neighborhood in Jerusalem for a month.
“My siblings and I still talk about that first trip. There are still things we remember.That’s how much of an impact it made. It was just like living in Israel. I went to the makolet every morning and bought bread – almost 50 years ago; the country was not even 20 years old and was much more basic, not as modern as it is now.
“It was 10 months before the Six Day War. We went with a tour guide to the roof of Notre Dame to get the best view of the Old City of Jerusalem. The fact that you could look at a key part of Jerusalem from a rooftop, but couldn’t go there, was extremely emotional and frustrating.
“That trip intensified the feelings of wanting to live in Israel. My parents put a down payment on an apartment and we assumed that we would make aliya as a family. I always knew I would end up in Israel. The question was when, not if.
“My parents always supported my desire to go to Israel. I came on another trip right after graduating high school and I spent my junior year studying at Hebrew University. After graduate school, I volunteered for three months on a religious kibbutz called Kvutzat Yavne. This was after the Yom Kippur War. I gathered turkey eggs, worked in the kitchen and served an assistant in the children’s house for three-year-olds.”
Back in America, Adina began her career as a business librarian, and 11 years passed.
“I was single and had a single friend who made aliya and came back to New York for a visit. She left stuff in my apartment. That was our connection. When she came to get the stuff, I asked her how it is as a single living in Israel. As we sat there, I said in my head, ‘If she can do it, I can do it. I’m going to do this!’ “The only question was money. I didn’t want to rent an apartment and move every year. Right after I announced I was going, the building I was living in Manhattan decided to go coop. That generated the money I needed to buy an apartment in Jerusalem. That was my chance.”
Both Adina and Marc studied at the Hebrew University, both experienced an extended delay after original aliya plans didn’t materialize and both eventually made it to Israel as singles, not imagining it would take many years for them to find one another.
Despite having had careers in other fields, both Marc and Adina ended up working as caterers in Israel. In 2008, Marc went to see Herby Dan of Herby’s Bake Shop in Beit El about a business venture. The business relationship never gelled, but Herby and his wife Debbie introduced Marc to Adina, whom they knew from their days on the Upper West Side. When the two caterers married, they merged their lives and the names of their catering businesses – Marc of Excellence and Taste of Talbieh.
The couple lives and works in Ma’aleh Adumim, which Adina calls “a community of hessed.” At any given time, there is at least one project where people are involved in sharing, contributing.
“I started a food auction, which is a city-wide project where people donate and/or bid on donated food, and every shekel raised goes to a local charity. A couple of years ago, Marc and I started volunteering in the Sar-El volunteer army program.”
Adina offers advice to prospective olim.
“There is no question that Israel is the home for the world’s Jews. Whether or not you come here is an extremely personal decision, but I still feel that every person should at least try. I always compared making aliya to getting married.
They are both a leap of faith, where you have no idea if it’s going to work out.
You have to make compromises. You have to be flexible.
“Ninety percent of the people I know who made aliya have changed careers.
The priority is to do what you have to do to stay in Israel. I know people with doctorate degrees who fix appliances. In the States, it might be less glamorous, but here you do it because the main goal is to support yourself in Israel, to be part of the adventure of building a country.
Compromise and flexibility are the main keys to succeeding here. Just like marriage.”
Marc echoes Adina’s thoughts.
“Because of the age of the country and the nature of the people, every single person can contribute. No matter where you’re from or what you do, there’s always something you can do here to contribute. A lot of people have a job plus interests on the side. Take your interest and use it to make society better. Here you feel like you’re really making a difference.”