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True Role Models (Part Eighteen)

This is the 18th part of this series on Aliyah and Klita (absorption) stories of American Jews who came to Israel for ideological and religious reasons in the past years. The purpose of the series is to emphasize the quality of the early Olim to Israel from America and to disprove the thesis that Olim in the early years of the state were unsuccessful shnorrers. Many of us Orthodox Zionists have been very disappointed in the negative attitude of non-religious Jews towards settlers but, despite the vote against the referendum, we have faith that Israel will grow and prosper rather than shrink and wither. Come help us grow.

Myrna Frankel was born and raised in New York City which, she feels, is such a fantastic place to live that she would still be there if Israel had not been beckoning to her all the days of her life. Her love for Israel and Zionism began in 1947 when her oldest brother volunteered for work in the Haganah, bringing the illegal ships to Palestine. His ship, the Geula, was captured and returned to Cyprus, but he was saved by other members of the Haganah who smuggled him off the ship while it was in port. She became an ardent Bnei Akivanik in her teenage years, and was committed to making Aliya. Her work for the Educational and Recreational Association took her behind the “Iron Curtain” in 1965 in the capacity of assistant director responsible for the first Jewish group (as a group) to visit the “Iron Curtain” countries. A short but fateful visit to Auschwitz cemented her decision that despite the difficulties in getting there, Israel was the one and only home for her as a Jew.

Her dream came true in 1973 when she and her husband and their two little children packed their bags and flew to Israel, exactly one month before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. Myrna is a graduate of Brooklyn College and her husband is a graduate of Yeshiva University. Her husband was at the height of his career as a computer consultant when they had to decide whether they were ready to go into business and invest 5-10 years to make enough money to make Aliya, or to go when the children were still little enough to become ‘Israeli” more easily than they would as teenagers, and take their chances on finding new employment. They opted to come on Aliyah and have never looked back in the 31 years that they have been here.

Today Myrna works in interior design. Three of her four children work in education: Her eldest is an English teacher. Her second daughter has been working in hi-tech for eight years. Her third and fourth children work in informal education, leading birthright groups, tour guiding, Israel Experience, Zionist Seminars, and other educational programs. All four have graduated from universities in Israel. Myrna has seven grandchildren – all in Israel and all contributing to the growth of our phenomenal homeland. Ken Yirbu! (see family picture)

* * *

Jeremy Ben-David grew up in a suburb of London and qualified (with honors) as a Civil Engineer. He was an active member of Bnei Akiva and in 1984 he accomplished his dream of coming to live in Israel. He made Aliyah as a young man of 23, for ideological reasons. Israel was always a part of his growing-up identity.

In 1985, he entered the field of Intellectual Property and he received his Israeli Patent Attorney license in 1987. In 1995, he founded the Jerusalem firm of Jeremy M. Ben-David and Co. Ltd. His father came on board as his partner in 1996. This year, the company he founded was cited as the 6th largest Patent Attorney firm nationally by Dun and Bradstreet (out of about 30 firms in Israel).

Jeremy grew up in Kingsbury, a suburb of London. During his teen years he was very active in Bnei Akiva, at the branch level, the national/regional level, and, of course, at Bnei Akiva camps. After leaving school he did not go to Hachshara, but went for a year to Yeshivat Keren B’Yavne, before going back to England to obtain a B.S. in Civil Engineering. In 1984, he made Aliyah with a British Bnei Akiva Garin, ‘Yeter’, to Kibbutz Alumim. His first act was to change his name from Davis to Ben-David. It was on kibbutz that he met his first wife, Gail Bleiberg, who was a volunteer at that time. Gail is from New York, and has an MA in Math. On deciding to marry, they left kibbutz and went to live in Jerusalem. Soon after, in 1988, they moved to Givat Zeev, with their one-year-old daughter Tal. During the next few years they had four girls, Tal, Tamar, Michal and Nava, now aged 11-17.

Jeremy’s parents made Aliyah in January 1985, and went to live in the then brand-new neighborhood of Ramot Bet. They have been living in the same house for 20 years. In 1985, after leaving the kibbutz, Jeremy was unable to find a job in civil engineering since that was the nadir of the slump in construction. Jeremy started working for a patent attorney in Rehovot, where his father also had started to work. After obtaining his patent attorney license in 1987, Jeremy continued to work for the patent attorney in Rehovot. After that, he worked for a Tel Aviv law firm for a couple of years. On Lag BaOmer, in 1995, at the time when the internet and e-mail had just become available publicly, Jeremy went off on his own, as a single practitioner, renting a small office in Ramat Gan. In early 1996, his father (who until that time had still been working for the patent attorney in Rehovot), came on board as his partner.

After renting their present premises in Har-Hotzvim in 1998, Jeremy’s firm grew to about 22 employees, but the sudden downturn in the economy forced the company to shrink to 16 employees. They have started again to expand cautiously, as the economy shows signs of recovery.

Jeremy also became involved in the Zu Artzeinu movement. In 1995 he divided his time between the office in Ramat Gan and arranging for erection of a hillside outpost near Givat Zeev. On one hot day in August/Av, several hundred people from Givat Zeev marched to the slopes of Nebi Samuel and pitched tents and picnic tables. They were reinforced by residents of nearby Ramot. This euphoric event lasted over two nights, with many visitors making their way to the site during the intervening day, the most notable of which was MK Rehavam Zeevi (z”l). By the second morning, only a handful were left to face the radio journalists and the army that was sent to evacuate them. Jeremy remembers making an impassioned statement to Galei Zahal (which he later heard broadcast) that they would return, come what may, but they never did.

In 1999, Jeremy cooperated with a business associate and friend to establish a software company that would revolutionize the way that patent attorney firms worked. Everyone loved the concept, but, like so many other hi-tech dreams, it floundered and died. In the meantime, many of his basic concepts are being used worldwide. They were right in their thinking, but they developed it before its time.

Jeremy and Gail divorced at the beginning of 2003, although he continued to live in Givat Zeev. Jeremy recently married Susie Weiss (nee Diamond), originally from Baltimore, who has been in Israel for 25 years, 18 of which have been in Maale Adumim. During the last seven years Susie has worked for Jeremy’s firm. She has four sons: Daniel, Nachie, Avichai and Eitan, aged 16-24. Jeremy’s four girls are all still in school. The eldest one will go to learn for a year in Midrasha before going into the army. Susie’s four boys are doing a variety of things. Daniel is married and has just started studying medicine. Nachie is just finishing off the army in the Golani brigade. Avichai is studying in yeshiva in Eilat before going into the army, and Eitan is still at high school.

So, even after being in Israel for over 20 years, Jeremy is still occupied with making beginnings. But right now, he feels that he is in a good place, and he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

To Be Continued

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