Oregonian "Goes Home" to Retire…in Israel

Medford residents Susan Holuber and her husband Aryha are both 63. While they still own the travel business they built together, they don’t do much with it anymore. She is retired and he works at Wal-Mart part time. Their world, however, is about to change. They are selling their house, packing up everything they own and retiring to Israel. It will actually be the second time Susan chucked it all and moved to Israel. “This time,” she says, “it’s final.”

Susan was raised in a traditional but not particularly religious home in southern California. When she was 24, though, she moved to Israel. It was 1974: the kibbutz movement was in full swing and, with two children and little money, the idea of communal living was very appealing. It turned out to be ideal for several years.

Susan was in charge of cooking breakfast for 45 adults every day, and she loved the work. Everyone else was Israeli, and her pancakes and hash browns soon had them enamored with American-style breakfasts. She had her own little house, and her children lived with everybody else’s in the children’s home. The result was actually real quality time with her kids.

“I’d see them after breakfast for an hour or so,” she remem- bers. “They’d come to my house from 4 to 8 every day, and I had nothing else I had to do but be with my children. Then they’d go back to the children’s home, and I’d go over at 9 o’clock to tuck them in.”

When her son contracted meningitis, however, the communal decision-making process butted against what she wanted as a parent. He stayed with her to recuperate, but the community deemed him healthy enough to return to the children’s home before she felt he was ready. She packed them all up and they settled in Karmiel in northern Israel.

It was there that she first grew Israeli roots. She became a licensed tour guide and operator, was one of the founders of Karmiel’s Conservative synagogue Kehillat Hakerem and became active in a club of American settlers. Later, as a tour guide in Tel Aviv, she met Aryha, “the most wonderful man in the world.” In 1997, with an offer to work at a travel business in Oregon, she and Aryha eventually settled in Medford, near Susan’s brother who lived in Grants Pass, and they created About Family Travel.

“Of course we couldn’t recommend a family go someplace we hadn’t personally checked out,” Susan says, so for 15 years they made trips, especially to Israel, “to verify family-friendly activities.”

And it was the lure of family-friendly activities that finally got them calling Realtors in Medford and in Karmiel. She says Karmiel is a city friendly to English speakers, “her” synagogue is flourishing, and the book club she founded is still active. But money will be tight, she acknowledges. No car. No luxuries.

They do have one son in Texas. In Medford, though, they have no family at all. “When it’s time for the holidays, we always have to say, ‘Who should we invite to celebrate with us?’ and it’s never our own family.” In Israel they have seven children, 11 grandchildren, and one on the way. Susan is a cook! She wants to cook for her family. “We Skyped the kids and said ‘We’re coming! We’re coming home to Israel.’ ”

Liz Rabiner Lippoff is a Portland freelance writer and a medical marketing specialist at Liz, ink: Lizink.biz.

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