Archive for the 'The Team' Category

An Informal Chat with Avi Zimmerman – Coordinator of The Community Aliyah Program in Ariel

Two of our Ariel Aliyah volunteers, Jerry and Sylvia Dortz, decided to interview Avi – here are the results:

Avi and Dana Zimmerman have been married for 5 years and have two children. Avi is from West Orange, New Jersey and after graduating high school made aliyah in 1995. Dana came to Israel at the age of 2 from South Africa. After their marriage they lived in Alon Shvot for two years but they knew it was only temporary since they wanted to live in a place where they could contribute to the community. They chose the city of Ariel because it afforded them the opportunity to pursue their dream of contributing to the community in which they lived.

About 1 ½ years ago Ron Nachman, mayor of Ariel, invited English speakers in Ariel to a meeting in his home to discuss the prospect of bringing North American Jews to Ariel. The mayor obtained funding and support from the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Absorption to include Ariel in their Community Aliyah Program. It was suggested to Mayor Nachman that a project coordinator be hired who would be responsible to see that the program was run properly. Avi Zimmerman was approached and he decided to take a break from his profession as an occupational therapist to take on the responsibility of heading this program as its coordinator. This particular program was created by the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Absorption to function in a number of cities in Israel.

Avi’s duties include marketing the Ariel Aliyah program and following through with an effective absorption program for the olim. Much of the marketing is done by internet and telecommunications, both here in Israel and by Avi’s trips abroad, where Ariel is presented to targeted audiences.

The goal of the Ariel Community Aliyah Program is to have an effective plan for North American Jews who choose to come home to Israel and who choose to settle in Ariel. We want to encourage aliyah by choice and to enhance Jewish life for those olim.

The Ariel Community Aliyah Program has approximately 20 volunteers with a core group of 10 people. The committee is expanding because as new olim arrive, they want to become active and give back to the community. When they arrive they are helped technically with as much as can be done in the way of housing, employment, education for adults and children and community programs so that their aliyah experience is a comfortable and enjoyable event. There are programs within Ariel for adults and children to help familiarize these families with the city and its people. Avi Zimmerman as Coordinator of Ariel Aliyah develops a program according to the needs of each oleh – oleh of different ages, backgrounds and needs. The program also provides pen pals, adoptive families, hospitality with local families. This motivates the community to take an active part in the process. All in all, as one can readily see, the Ariel Aliyah Community Program is a wonderful opportunity for our new olim and the citizens of Ariel to come together


The Ariel Development Fund

Ariel Development FundThe Ariel Aliyah program is blessed to have a couple of volunteers who are also involved in other community work throughout the city as well. Amongst them are Jerry and Sylvia Dortz, who are regular volunteers at the well-known Ariel Development Fund. Here’s the inside scoop about some of what the Ariel Development Fund does for the city:

We (jerry and Sylvia) interviewed Dina Shalit, the Executive Director of The Ariel Development Fund (ADF), who made aliyah from Montreal, Canada in 1983 with her husband and three children.  

The Ariel Development Fund serves multiple purposes for the city of Ariel. It is first and foremost the fund-raising arm of the City of Ariel, which makes the organization aware of community needs and humanitarian projects.  ADF then finds financial support for these projects from abroad.  The organization focuses a great deal on immigrant absorption programs since the population of Ariel is 54%   immigrants.

Ariel is a growing city of 18,000.  Along with its sister organization, American Friends of Ariel located in Florida, ADF has been very successful in its efforts.  That stems from the fact that since its inception the Fund has developed personal relationships with people who care about Israel and focus on the City of Ariel. 

The organization acts as a major force for the city.  ADF staff receive tour groups and private individuals and encourage and receive support from both Christian and Jewish Zionists.   The visitors enjoy performances by the senior citizens choir, youth and Russian dance and singing groups.   The tours include visits to educational institutions from pre-school to Ariel University including some very important projects at the Research and Development Center.   The groups also visit some of the cultural venues that have been so important in the development of the community life of our citizens and they also partake in vine planting in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.  Visitors also tour the IDF base adjacent to Ariel.  The Holocaust Museum, located in the center of Ariel, is another important stop for our guests.  On occasion they are taken on tours of the area including such important historical and Biblical sites as Shilo, Mt. Moriah, etc.

 The Ariel Development Fund works for the advancement and the well-being of the citizens of our beautiful, vibrant city.

 If you are coming to Israel on a tour, we would love to show you our beautiful city so ask your guide to arrange a visit to Ariel by contacting the office of The Ariel Development Fund at 03-936-4406.


I just wanted to add a little something of my own. Not everyone realizes the steps that have been taken to bring Ariel’s Anglo aliyah program as far as its come. It requires time, effort, coordination, motivation and – you guessed it -money. The ADF has been generous in each of those respects, including preparing and funding recruiting trips to America and Canada, absorption housing for new olim and various other expenses and needs that have arisen over time.

So when you meet Dina Shalit (and if you move here I’m sure you will) don’t forget to thank her for making Ariel, and Israel, a better place.

Holocaust and Heroism Memorial House

In order to appreciate the aliyah phenomenon, we need reference points. Ariel, rich in humanity and history, provides a number of points-of-reference through which we can further our understanding and perspective. Jerry and Sylvia Dortz describe one such place in Ariel…   

In 1933, Adolph Hitler rose to power in Germany and established a racist regime in which Jews were deemed to be “untermenschen” (sub-humans), not part of the human race. 

In 1939 Hitler began implementing his “final solution” to annihilate the Jewish people.  His forces concentrated the Jews in ghettos and established labor, concentration, and extermination camps to which the Jews were sent.  Documents uncovered after the war show that Hitler’s aim was to exterminate every Jew in the world.  During the six years of the war 6,000,000 Jews including 1,500,000 children were murdered by the Nazis; one-third of the Jewish population of the world. 

In Ariel, at 44 Derech HaNachshonim, Irena and Yaakov (Kuba) Wodzeslawske, both Holocaust survivors, founded the Holocaust and Heroism Memorial House in 2003.  “My wife and I are aware of the responsibilities of our work because as long as time passes there will be less people who are witnesses to what happened.  We will never forget the memories of the faces of the people who were walking to their death who called to the ones who would survive to revenge their blood.  We know that as survivors we will forever bear witness to what was done to our people.  We realize that we were left alive in order to tell what took place.”   This is a unique memorial site in Ariel, located in their private home.  Memorial House covers 4 of the 6 floors of the Wodzeslawske’s home, and functions as a commemorative shrine and a testimony to the horrors of the past. 

There are several galleries in the house:

Bronze sculptures by Shmuel Vilenberg, a survivor of Treblinka, are arranged in the Sculpture Gallery.  These sculptures of the figures encountered while in the camp express his memories and nightmares. 

The Photo Gallery contains rare photographs that track the chronological events of the Holocaust era, from the invasion of Poland, to deportation, life and death in the ghettos, exile to the extermination camps in cattle cars, the selection process, and the mass extermination that took place.

The Personal Belongings Gallery contains rare items, including a prisoner’s jacket from Auschwitz, a food bowl from Treblinka, a yellow Jude star from Germany, a white ribbon with a yellow star of David which Polish Jews wore as an armband, and metal buttons worn by the Jewish ghetto policemen on their caps, a page from a Torah that was desecrated and subsequently purchased by Jews; an old Sidur Mahzor from the 19th century that was found scattered in the rubbish in Poland; rare stamps depicting Hitler’s image and many other items.

The Letters and Postcards Gallery is a rare and unique collection of over 350 postcards and letters that were mailed from the work camps and ghettos by Jews and are accompanied by translations in Hebrew. 

The Lecture Hall seats 100 and is outfitted with audio-visual equipment and a library.  After a tour of the Memorial House, organized groups gather here to listen to the testimonies of the survivor couple.

The Holocaust was the deliberate and systematic attempt to exterminate the entire Jewish people.  Modern attempts to diminish or deny this tragedy, unique in its scale, desecrate the memory of its millions of victims.   Only by remembering, documenting and commemorating the Holocaust can we insure that nothing like it will ever happen again. 

A Bit About Books


Read all about it at Ariel’s Municipal Library. Whatever your topic, interest, or reading desire you will find it right here in Ariel’s library, located in the Matnas (Community Center).The library, which has 60,000 books, houses a unique collection of reading material for all ages in both Hebrew and English, rich in culture and just plain reading enjoyment. Books range from biblical history through up-to-date volumes.The library also has about 18 computers for your needs. There are large tables where you can avail yourself of your personal research in a comfortable setting. There is a large children’s section with books in both English and Hebrew. This allows the whole family to visit the library because it fills everyone’s reading and research needs both adult and children. The upper floor of the library contains educational material including encyclopedias, etc. for student’s research.Fees for a year’s membership per person are NIS 70 to take out 2 books at a time, NIS 80 to take out 3 books at a time and a family membership of NIS 120 per year. Hours are 10-12 in the morning and 5-8 in the evening Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. The library has an experienced staff to help you search for your desired reading material(Of course – new olim can let us know if they’re interested so that we can arrange a membership discount – contact Avi at

Cost effective aliyah

In shekels NIS6,330 per year which equals $1,582 per year.  What do these figures stand for?  Read on and you will be amazed.

When we made aliyah in 1995 from the US we were in our mid-60s and retired.  We immediately enrolled in one of the 4 health clinics located in Ariel.   Compared to what people in the US pay for health coverage, we were pleasantly amazed at how little our coverage cost. Our clinic has various levels of coverage and we chose their top plan. You can select a less expensive plan with fewer benefits depending on the state of your health.  Our medical situation was certainly not ideal. As an example we were beset with diabetes and a cardio vascular situation.  It is important to us to share our medical situation so that you can understand that in spite of how little our plan costs us, we receive the very best in medical care. To add to this picture, we both underwent major surgery at no additional cost to us.  When we speak to friends and family in the US they tell us how the cost of a decent medical plan has skyrocketed through the roof.  Aside from all of this, we would also like to let you know how inexpensive medication is in Israel compared to the US.  As an example, a pill that we take because of high cholesterol that cost $99 for a months supply (30 pills) in the US, costs NIS40 which in dollars would be about $10.  We have heard that the cost of medication is so high, that people in the US who live reasonably close to the Canadian border, cross that border into Canada to buy their medication where the cost is much less, making the trip worthwhile.  Please compare the cost of our health coverage to what you pay in the USA.   If you feel you need further information please contact Jerry & Sylvia Dortz at and we will try to answer your questions.  

‘My belief’

In Israel, many times a new coordinator taking the helm first comes clean and declares his ‘ani ma’amin’ – my belief – so that’s how I’ll start my first post on our community blog.

I believe that Ariel is a great place to live. In 1999, and having never been here before, my wife and I moved to Ariel for what we thought would be a single year to finish studies at the local college. We quickly realized what a gem the city was and decided to stay. In July 2005, we bought a new apartment being built and in January 2007, we moved in to our new home.

I believe that the climate in Ariel is awesome. Usually cooler and less humid than the rest of central Israel, it is great to stay in the city all day long, and even better to come home at the end of a day of work.

I believe that olim will find it a convenient location to start their aliyah with a variety of affordable housing and close to the jobs of the ‘Gush Dan’ and Sharon hubs of the Israel economy.

I believe that Ariel is a nice place to bring up kids. While technically Ariel is a city providing all the services of a much larger locality, it feels much more like a rural town where children and youth can walk the streets safely at all times. The cost of quality and loving home care for babies and toddlers is lower than most other places and the public nurseries/kindergartens are subsidized making for a nice cushion for families with multiple young children. I’m also told that the local elementary schools have impressive reputations (my kids still have a couple of years to go before the first grade).

I believe that people who want to make a contribution to Israeli society have many options to choose from in Ariel. While many organizations are already operating, there is still a lot of volunteer work needed, as well as even the opportunity to start new ventures. It’s incredible how even newcomers can be influential by showing a will to help out.

I believe that the time has come for more people to learn about the option to move to Ariel.



Israeli FlagIn 1987, we spent the month of August vacationing in Jerusalem. It was during that vacation that we decided to move to Israel. Returning to New York we realized that we were not in a financial position to make aliyah at that time. Eight long years later in 1995 we retired on a modest income and that allowed us to immediately get in touch with the Jewish Agency and begin processing for aliyah. At that time we were in our mid-60’s. Our dream of living in Israel was beginning to take shape. We were so anxious to make Israel our new home that although our aliyah flight was scheduled for Sunday, November 13 th at 6 in the evening, we arrived at the airport at 7 in the morning. Upon entering the El Al terminal, we were immediately surrounded by security personnel inquiring as to why we were there at that hour since there were no flights scheduled until the late afternoon. We explained to them that although our flight was scheduled for 6 PM (as our tickets indicated), we just had to get out and feel that we were finally on our way. The security personnel were great. They understood and gave us a kol hakovod. They took our luggage and secured it for us and pointed us in the direction of a building where we could get some breakfast. As departure time came closer and closer, excitement began to well up in us. As our plane began to climb higher and higher, out of our window the USA began to look smaller and smaller. We never looked back. Even to this day.

Sylvia & Jerry