Gavriel and his wife Yael Queenann converted to Judaism 12 years ago with Chabad in Seattle, Washington. After Gavriel completed his yeshiva studies, he found himself working in Microsoft as a software engineer. Both Gavriel and Yael knew they wanted to make Aliyah (immigration to Israel), but they always thought that would be a long way down the road.
That’s when Gavriel began listening to Arutz Sheva’s Israel National Radio in the office where he worked. He especially liked the broadcasts of former Israel National Radio show host David Kaplan, who spoke about the importance of living in Israel.
“We had two little girls, Abigial and Bat-Sheva, and we started thinking – if not now, then when? as it says in Pirkei Avot, (The Ethics of our Fathers),” Gavriel relates.
“At the time, it was 2004, and that was right before the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif. I thought to myself – why should I bother making Aliyah, if Israel itself isn’t holding on to its own land? That question troubled me, so I sent an e-mail to David Kaplan and asked him just that.
“David answered me that the only way to change the system is for the right people to be here in Israel. That got us thinking. We wanted our girls to grow up speaking Hebrew. We didn’t want to be in Galut (Diaspora) any longer. For thousands of years, Jews prayed for the chance to be in Israel, and now that we have that chance, how can we not take it? What is HaShem going say about us if we don’t take that chance?”
“I called up David, and he soon became my 'Aliyah buddy'." David put the Queenanns in touch with Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Rabbi Yehoshuah Fass, and even though the registration deadline had already passed for that summer’s flight, they were allowed to fill out the necessary forms. “Every time we had a question, David answered it,” says Gavriel.
The Queenanns made Aliya in July 2004 with Nefesh B' Nefesh. “We left America on my 32nd birthday and landed the next day,” relates Gavriel. After landing, the Queenanns stayed for six weeks in Beit Canada, an absorption center, but they were anxious to enroll their girls into a school in a community, so they moved to Beit El.
Initially, Gavriel worked for an organization that manufactures bullet-proof vests called Mishmeret Yesha, but when Yishai Fleisher called him about a position as chief radio engineer at Arutz Sheva’s Israel National Radio, Gavriel jumped at the opportunity.
“Coming to work at Arutz Sheva really brought the whole thing full circle,” says Gavriel. “This is why I’m here, and this is what I wanted to be doing since day one. Listening to Arutz Sheva is what flipped the Aliyah switch for me in the first place. I took the job so I could make that same resource available for other people.”
“Aliyah is the best thing that ever happened to my family. My daughters are growing up speaking Hebrew. My wife is happy. Seattle is a wonderful community, but it wasn’t the way to fulfill my goals. Here, I am in a smicha (rabbinical ordination) program; here I can fulfill my goals. Even though in America I was making a lot of money, there was no way to make the life we wanted happen for us. If we stayed in the Diaspora, none of our dreams could come true, but here the blessing is actually happening.”
Finally, Gavriel describes the scene when his family arrived in Israel:
“When we got off plane, Yishai Fleisher was there, and he was blowing that huge antelope shofar (ram’s horn). My oldest daughter kept trying to grab it, and they made a connection right there. For me, working at Arutz Sheva is a chance to blow the shofar for the whole nation.”
Gavriel is excited to be taking part in this Thursday's Arutz Shevathon Fundraiser. Click here to find out more about the Shevathon.