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Arrivals: We couldn’t see a future for Jewish kids in London

CM 26/05/2021

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Doron Seitz and his family made aliyah on August 9, 2001 – the day of the Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem. They saw images of the massive terror attack on the news before departing from London. 
“It was difficult leaving that day, of course. But I’d left my job and sold my house. Our stuff was on the way and we didn’t have much choice. But I do not regret at all coming here. In my philosophy, every place has difficulties and it’s just a matter of how you look at it.” 
Seitz had been imbued with a strong Zionist love of Israel from childhood, having been an active member and leader in his local Bnei Akiva religious youth movement. 
“Israel is where I wanted my family to grow and to be,” says the father of two sons, aged 17 and 9.
Daniel Engelsman, also from London, was brought up in a traditional Jewish household and attended Jewish schools all his life. He and his childhood sweetheart, Victoria, chose to get married in Eilat in 2006, during what turned out to be the Second Lebanon War.
“We’ve always been very Zionistic,” says Engelsman, the father of a 10-year-old boy and an eight-year-old girl. “We couldn’t see a future for Jewish kids in London, so we wanted to come here.”
Seitz and Engelsman crossed paths in 2008, while Engelsman was still in London and Seitz was on a temporary sojourn in Italy; his wife, Zefi, is from Milan.  

Knowing he wanted to make aliyah, Engelsman had specialized in currency exchange since finishing university in 2000 in London. 
“Back then, we were working with a lot of Brits purchasing properties in Bulgaria and Spain and some in Israel. That’s how I met Doron’s brother, and he introduced us.” (Seitz’s brother currently lives in Gush Etzion and their parents live in Ashkelon.)
Seitz, who had a degree in business and marketing, worked with Engelsman to transfer his business model over to Israel. Their joint venture, currency exchange company IsraTransfer, is celebrating its “bar mitzvah” this year. 
“Daniel was making aliyah at the time and we made a business plan together. We started operations in November 2008 when the financial crisis hit, so it was a really tough start. And it’s not easy to adjust to the language and the mentality. But we didn’t go into it thinking all would be rosy. In my opinion, if you have the right attitude, you’ll be successful,” says Seitz.
“Now, here we are 13 years later doing the same thing. It’s been a great partnership.” 
The company has offices in Jerusalem and Ramat Gan staffed by 15 people, many recruited through Nefesh B’Nefesh and other immigrant channels. The employees recently were treated to an anniversary breakfast at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. 
Engelsman says IsraTransfer prides itself on “Anglo-style” customer service that people from the US and UK appreciate, and has been the exclusive operator of the AACI Currency Exchange Program since 2011. 
Thus far, he relates, the company has served more than 10,000 customers and assisted with the purchase of more than 3,000 properties in Israel, offering exchange rates that are more favorable than at banks.
“When we both made aliyah, it came with a commitment to stay – something we not only hope for our clients but for all olim,” says Seitz. “I built my own home on a moshav near Beit Shemesh. I am now rooted in Israel and want other immigrants to feel the same way.” 
Moshav Nehusha is religious and is closed to traffic on Shabbat, giving the children complete freedom and safety to go back and forth among each other’s houses. Seitz is very satisfied with the moshav atmosphere. 
“If the kids are late from school there’s no reason to worry. It’s a good life, a clean life, not as material as I think it might be in other places,” he says.
When the Engelsmans arrived in Israel in 2008, Seitz met them at the airport and said jokingly, “Welcome to the jungle.”
Engelsman recalls one of his early language gaffes: “My wife sent me to purchase chicken wings from the local shop and I knew chicken was of so I asked the butcher for ofnayim,” which was a good guess but actually is closer to the word ofanayim, (bicycle) than to knafayim (wings).  
“My Hebrew has not gotten much better since,” he claims.
He goes back to London on occasion to indulge his soccer passion; he’s a huge Tottenham fan. Nevertheless, Engelsman loves life in Israel, from the food to the weather. 
“I really appreciate the freedom that my children have here. If I’m in a supermarket and one wants to go to the next aisle alone, I let them. In Tesco in London, I wouldn’t let them do that,” says Engelsman.
“And coming from London, where the sky is always gray, it’s massive to see sunshine on a daily basis,” he adds. 
Each of the partners does have a wish list of things they’d like to change about Israel for the better.
“The banking system needs a big kick in the backside,” Engelsman says. “Israeli banks still use fax machines instead of proper technology,” Seitz adds.
“I get annoyed with Israelisms,” says Engelsman. “I get into arguments with people jumping queues. It’s like a sport for me now. I have come to enjoy it.”
The partners opine that too many goods are overpriced, and Israelis often feel they are getting ripped off. They want their business to be an exception to that rule.
“If you live in Israel or try to do business here, you know about the infamous customer service and bureaucracy. We recognize the need to make it easy to conduct business in a safe, simple and convenient way,” says Engelsman.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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