Aliyah Tales of Ariel II


by Benjamin Laskin

 Once my processing for Aliyah was well underway, my next major decision became, “Now, where the heck in Israel am I going to start this new life of mine?” I needed a place to absorb and I hadn’t a clue where to go. So, I did what any serious, sane person would do. I pinned a map of Israel on the wall of my apartment in Japan where I was living, and tossed a dart. After all, Israel is Israel, and it’s so small, anywhere is everywhere.


Four darts later and worried that I’d lose my security deposit, I was quite certain that there were no Israeli towns or settlements in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, Lebanon, or Jordan, I decided that a slightly more pragmatic approach to such an important decision was called for.


I dug up the handful of colorful fliers that I had picked up while on a visit to the Jewish Agency in Los Angeles describing various towns and cities in Israel that were looking for new immigrants. They all sounded good on paper, but that is, after all, the purpose of a flier. 

I needed a little more info than that.


I got online and clicked around, trying to get a better sense of some of these places. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be in or around Tel Aviv or Haifa. Nothing against those cities, but they didn’t tickle my romantic and idealistic fancies.


I narrowed my search to four or five possibilities. I sent some emails and waited. And waited some more. Only one address had returned with a rapid reply. The one I had sent to Ariel.


Within a few quick back and forths with Avi Zimmerman, I knew that here we had a guy who took his position seriously and could be counted on. Avi far exceeded my expectations, and when the big day arrived and I landed in Israel, Avi was there to drag my weary, bleary-eyed carcass from the airport and cart me off to Ariel. I remained under his big, brotherly wing until he had made sure all my important documentation and ‘to-dos’ were complete, including securing my apartment. I was overwhelmed not only by Avi’s concern and generosity, but by the very special Ariel volunteers who assisted us, led by the indefatigable and wonderful ‘Den-Mother-in-Chief’, Jenny Simon.


Having made aliyah directly from Japan where I had been living for some eighteen years, culture shock was unavoidable. On top of that, I was entirely solo, with not a single friend or relative in Israel to greet or help me. However, thanks to Avi, Jenny, and many others of the Ariel English-speaking community, my transition from a sushi- nibbling ‘gaijin’ to a falafel-snarfing Ole couldn’t have gone smoother.


After a few months, I wasn’t just chucked aside by Avi, either. He continued to demonstrate honest interest in my well-being and always made time for me from his busy schedule. Avi has moved on to another Ariel-related program, but his successor, Reuvan Franks, has filled Avi’s gigantic shoes most admirably. Like Avi before him, Reuvan is as helpful as you want him to be, and even though I am now a nine-month ‘old timer’ here, I feel that he is always ready to assist me in any way he can.


Ariel is a lovely town with many wonderful people, especially those in the English speaking community. Bonds are made fast, and kindness and generosity shine down on new arrivals like the Shomron sun we live under. It is hard to imagine a better and easier way to absorb in Israel than by coming to Ariel. Don’t toss darts and expect everywhere to be the same. Head straight for the bull’s-eye, Ariel.


Benjamin Laskin


I’m not someone who has wanted to make aliyah his whole life.  My family never regarded it as an option when I was growing up, and I had never even been to Israel until a few years ago.  But over the last few years as I’ve become more religiously observant, I’ve also begun to feel a stronger connection to other Jews and to our homeland. I began to understand that living in the land that Hashem gave us is an important part of our covenant with Him as Jews, and I wanted to fulfill my part in that covenant by living in our homeland. I wanted to live where the holidays that are celebrated are Jewish holidays and where the rhythms of daily life are Jewish. I wanted to be in Israel if, G-d forbid, bad things happen to our people, and to be there to celebrate when good things happen. I got tired of watching from the sidelines.  And I grew to feel more and more like an outsider living in exile in the U.S. 
I’ve never thought that Israel is some kind of paradise. I think my life in Israel will be harder than my life in the U.S. had been. Making aliyah wasn’t an easy decision. At times during the process I got cold feet and had second thoughts. Several times I decided not to do it at all. I didn’t think I could quit my job, sell my house, move myself and three dogs to a place where I didn’t speak the language fluently and wouldn’t even be able to read my phone bill. But I could never talk myself out of it. And somehow it all worked out. That must mean something. I did know for quite a while that my heart was in Israel and my soul was in Israel; now I’m very happy that my body is here too.
Making aliyah to Ariel has made everything much easier. There is warmth and support here for new olim, and having Reuven Franks, Ariel’s Community Aliyah Coordinator, makes a huge difference. I would not have known how to go about opening a bank account, leasing an apartment, getting my dogs licensed, or any of the other innumerable tasks that are a part of daily living without Reuven’s help. He helped me with all those things, and that’s incredibly valuable.
Terry Troutner


1 Response to “Aliyah Tales of Ariel II”

  1. 1 betty November 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    i think thats a wonderful story, your very brave. may all your desires come true.
    i also live in ariel.

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