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Aviva Yisraeli -The Spirit and Soul of the People of the Land

Though Aviva was only nine years old when her family made Aliyah from Canada, she remembers clearly, feeling wonderfully excited. She was young enough not to be nervous about making the move and was ready to enjoy what living in a Jewish country would mean. Outside of Israel she always felt that being Jewish set her apart… made her different. In Israel she was home.  And one of the perks was being able to go to the mall and eat everything in the Food Court because all the restaurants were kosher! Though she realizes that moving to Israel was her parents’ choice, Aviva claims that her insistence and ability to acclimate and acclimate well, was her own. She remembers convincing her mother to send her on a camping trip with her friends because “You become Israeli in the summer!” Her family lived in Efrat for five years and then moved to Tekoa, another community in Gush Etzion, and there she has stayed.

Aviva married Aviad and together they decided to build their home and raise their family in Tekoa.  It was an exhilarating time and she remembers the thrill of building her own home in the Land of Israel at the very time that archeologists, in nearby Herodian, had uncovered Herod’s Tomb.  All of her siblings also decided to remain in the community as adults.  Tekoa is a place where religiously observant and secular families live side by side in successful harmony and Aviva loves that diversity. It encourages her to make a life lesson for her children about her wonderful neighbors and to discuss these differences with them: “Something feels so right here”.

Today, Aviva and Aviad have four children—Doron Amichai (8), Yair (6), Nili (4) and Maya (2).  The war in Gaza was raging during her first pregnancy and her husband was a medic in the army. He served in Gaza and was away from home for three long weeks when his friend Doron was shot by a terrorist and died in his arms. Their eldest child was named for him… with the additional hopeful second name of Amichai—My Nation Lives.

Last year, Aviva herself was the target of terrorism.  The community of Tekoa had just gotten hold of video footage of a graduation ceremony in the nearby Arab town. It depicted three Arab children dressed as Israeli soldiers, killing Arab children in cold blood. It was a horrifying, but not rare incitement to violence.  A few days later, Aviva was stoned by teenagers on the road just outside of Tekoa.

Aviva and her sister were in the car with their two young babies, on their way home from a doctor’s appointment, when a Palestinian teenager appeared from behind one of the cement security barriers on the road and launched a large rock at their car.  Aviva smashed her shoulder and had to have it bandaged and her sister was coated with cuts and shards of glass, but thank G-d, the two babies were unhurt.

Aviva could not feel anger at this Arab youngster because she knew he had been brainwashed to hate. When she returned home from the hospital, her seven-year-old asked her why her arm was in a sling. “I told him that a bad boy had done it. He wanted to know if it was an Arab boy. I told him it doesn’t matter who the boy was. I don’t want him to grow up with hate. You see what happens when you teach your kids hatred.”

It was a terrifying experience for Aviva, one that although it happened more than a year ago, she hasn’t completely recovered from.  Aviva carries a gun for protection but is still uncomfortable driving on the roads near her home town.  Although there have been many security scares in and around Tekoa, Aviva says that once you’re inside the community you feel safe. “It’s like a gated community.”

Wanting to get involved more in the community she so loves, in 2012 Aviva ran for the Governing Board of Tekoa and got elected, then took on the role of seeking supporters for their community from abroad. Shani Simkowitz, Director of the Gush Etzion Foundation, a long-time recipient of CFOIC Heartland support, connected Aviva with Sondra Baras and the rest is history. Aviva:  “Everyone has good intentions, but CFOIC Heartland was there whenever Tekoa had an immediate need.

“Several years ago there was a family in Tekoa whose parents died suddenly and five children were orphaned; nobody knew how they would get through the holidays. We reached out to you, our supporters and friends, and thanks to your immediate response, CFOIC Heartland was able to provide funds for the suffering family, almost immediately.”

Since then, there have been so many vital needs that CFOIC Heartland has provided for, including youth programs, a senior citizen “Meals on Wheels”, and most recently, surveillance cameras. CFOIC Heartland donors also helped establish 2 parks in Tekoa, one in memory of two local boys, massacred by terrorists while hiking in the land they love, just meters from their homes.

Aviva’s husband Aviad owns a catering business in Gush Etzion and provided lunch in the “Succah” for the CFOIC Heartland Feast Tour this past year!  Aviva has met many Christian groups who have visited Tekoa through CFOIC Heartland.  She greets everyone and shows them around in her gracious generous way.  Aviva loves meeting them:  “I walk away from each group with a bounce in my step.”

In addition to her volunteer work for her community, Aviva works professionally as a doula and lactation consultant.  She first became interested in working with mothers and their new babies when her sister had a difficult labor and Aviva, a new mother herself, breastfed her niece until her sister was strong enough to take over her care.  This amazing, caring woman is a treasure to meet and get to know!

May she continue using her boundless energies and her open heart to raise her beautiful family in the land she so loves.