Gavi Hanssen (45) made Aliya with his wife (42) and four children (12, 10, 8, and 4) from Denver Colorado in July 2012. When he met his wife, she told him that she wanted to make Aliya and he was open to the idea. Gavi said, “I don’t necessarily believe that all Jews should live in Israel, but we wanted to be part of Israel, part of the history of Jews coming back to their land after 2000 years in the Diaspora. You live only once, and I wanted to experience it in my life.”
When Gavi’s wife’s job ended 18 months ago, they decided to take the opportunity to start something new in Israel. After the decision was made, everything fell into place:Gavi, his wife and the two older children started studying Hebrew with eTeacher; a house was found in a small community in the Galilee– exactly what the family was looking for.
Nefesh B’Nefesh helped them in their preparation by providing accurate information to create a realistic view of what was awaiting them in the Promised Land. After arriving in Israel,Nefesh B’Nefesh “offered more help than we could even take advantage of,” Gavi said with a smile.
In the States, Gavi was a consultant with non-profit organizations and his wife worked as a teacher. In Israel, his wife easily found a job as an English teacher and Gavi started looking for a job only two months ago after helping the kids settle in. He goes for regular interviews and feels confident that he will find a job soon.
Gavi said that a major motivator for moving to Israel was the children’s education. It was important for him and his wife to give their children a good Jewish education, so they enrolled them in an expensive Jewish day school in Denver. In Israel, they feel, their children get a good Jewish education almost for free.
Gavi feels happy with choosing Eshchar as their new home in Israel. Though they had never visited the house or neighborhood before making Aliya, as they took their first steps into their new home, neighbors were welcoming them with food and help, and children from the neighborhood came to play with their children. Although they are not a religious family, the Hanssens feel very comfortable in a mixed place where religious families live next to secular ones, where mixed couples (religious and secular) are accepted and where nobody judges you for the way you live your life.
Gavi’s wife spent a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem during her college years, so her Hebrew was already very good; and she only needed some high-level Hebrew lessons with eTeacher to sharpen up her language before arrival. Gavi also studied Hebrew before and took online classes before and after making Aliya. He felt that his online teacher, Nili Gross, helped him not only with the language, but also with Israeli culture and perspective. Although Olim Chadashim are entitled to a free Ulpan (intensive Hebrew courses), Gavi decided instead to continue his studies online with his outstanding teacher, Nili. The most important thing, beyond the lessons, is speaking Hebrew everywhere: at the bank, the store, at his children’s school, in the street – not feeling embarrassed about mistakes, simply speaking Hebrew.
Gavi has found that the adjustment is easier for his kids the younger they are. His four-year-old daughter already speaks Hebrew that she acquired in her preschool. His older boys have friends and participate in lots of after-school activities. They seem to be happy and well adjusted. Sometimes they do dream about their familiar environment back in Denver and sometimes they miss skiing, but overall, they don’t have many problems.
Gavi says that he sometimes experiences unique communication problems with his children when he tries to help them with homework. The children learn new terms in school in Hebrew and when he tries to help them, he finds that he lacks the words in Hebrew, while the kids lack the words in English.
When asked about his greatest revelation about living in Israel, Gavi thought for a moment and said, “It’s a normal life in here. People think that living in the Holy land, surrounded by Jewish people is very special, but people here go around their business and have the same concerns that people all over the world have – mortgage, job, etc. I don’t worry about bombs here, but about rent, education, about normal things.”
Although it was probably easier to stay in their familiar environment in the USA, Gavi and his wife feel that their Aliya gave the family “opportunity for huge emotional and spiritual growth.”
Gavi sees Aliya from English-speaking counties as unique because their choice to live in Israel did not come from a need the way it does for others who may not be able to live freely as Jews in their countries of origin.
“I look from the back of my house at the Mediterranean Sea and I feel that I am part of history, I am part of Israel, and I am happy to be here. We are committed and we’re gonna make it!”
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Shira Regev Cohen