Meet an observant gay couple with 3 adopted children now settling in Israel....
This can only happen in Israel....
Almost 10,000 olim have made aliya so far in 2010, of whom 2,426 came from English-speaking countries, according to data released by the Jewish Agency on Tuesday. Each one has a unique story to tell.
Some, however, are more unique than others.
Take Ian and Daniel Chesir-Teran, for example, an observant gay couple from New Jersey and their three adopted black children – Eli, Yonah and Tamar.
The Chesir-Terans made aliya last week through the Jewish Agency in collaboration with Nefesh B’Nefesh, but unlike most newcomers, the members of this unusual family are no strangers in a strange land. In fact, they’re already minor celebrities. Earlier this year they took part in the Israeli version of the reality TV show Wife Swap, which has members from two families with very different backgrounds trade places for two weeks.
“Channel 2 decided to air our episode immediately after we moved to Israel,” Ian said, barely audible over the din of his young children playing in the background, in an interview over the phone from his new home in Kibbutz Hanaton.
“Suddenly, we were on TV commercials all the time and have been recognized on a daily basis in an overwhelmingly positive way.”
Ian, 39, is a rabbinical student and lawyer. His partner, Daniel, 40, is a psychologist. Both wear kippot and observe Jewish rituals. The couple have been together for 15 years and decided to move to Israel permanently after a one-year stint in Jerusalem.
“We were living in Jerusalem last year as part of my rabbinical training and we had a transformative year and experience,” Ian said. “When it came time to plan to come back to America we realized it would be very difficult for us to do that, so we decided to make our move back to Israel permanent.
It’s a place where we see ourselves being able to build our family.”
Their aliya hasn’t been without sacrifices.
Ian said he wants to continue his rabbinical studies but he has yet to find a place that would accept him.
He will have to moonlight as a lawyer to make ends meet. Daniel will focus on raising the kids for the time being, but wants to resume lecturing on the university level, as he did in the US.
After a long and busy week Ian expressed his frustration with Israeli bureaucracy and its discrimination against same-sex couples.
“Just today we faced a challenging situation where we tried to sign up for an HMO, but they wouldn’t list us in the same way as they would a heterosexual couple. When I went to the post office they gave me a separate registry, too.”
Asked if the red tape and bias against gays has weakened his resolve to become part of Israeli society, he said it had the opposite effect.
“If anything, this just emboldens us to do more so that we are recognized by the government, not only for our own sakes – although certainly for our own sakes – but also for future lesbian and gay couples who make aliya. But there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done in Israel, just like in America.
We know that to receive the blessings of aliya there is a responsibility to give back to the community.”
What about the kids? Do they worry that their children, being black, might suffer discrimination? Ian said he isn’t more or less worried than he would be in the US. Here, at least, all the other kids at school are Jewish, he said.