The following was written by Jack White with Noreen Firestone. It was originally written for Newsletter #4 in September 2017.

 

When we came to Karmiel in 1984, there was no club as such for English-speaking olim. AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel) existed but had no premises. There was no club at all for expatriate Brits, although there was an office of the British Olim Society (BOS). This was situated above the shops in the “old square‟ run by the late June Kochman.

 

In 1984, the premises (now the KESC clubhouse) were acquired and the office/library/canteen established.

Noreen Firestone had previously worked in the BOS Haifa office with June and was asked if she was interested in working in the new Karmiel office. She agreed and left her job as secretary at a factory in Karmiel and joined June there. At a later date the late Shirley Lerner joined them.

 

The BOS took care not only of Brits but also Scandinavians and olim from Australia and New Zealand. Sometime later, the BOS office moved to larger premises (the offices now occupied by the lawyers, “Shiloni,” next door to the present moadon). Meanwhile June Kochman, who wanted to establish a club for British olim, was looking for a suitable location. After a while, the adjacent premises were secured for club use with the help of a donation by a British couple, Ernest and Ella Frankel, whose generosity is recorded in a plaque outside the club entrance.

 

The BOS Club was then formed under the chairmanship of the late Gerry Gage and then, after his death, by my wife Gwenn. Activities took place, mainly in what was then the “Shil” office (Citizens‟ Advice Bureau) afterwards occupied by Bank HaPoalim. A monthly newsletter was produced by Leona Koller (who recently returned to membership after living for many years in Kfar Vradim).

 

The new club was very active and the BOS paid for staff to run the canteen which opened six days a week and served meals from breakfast to lunchtime. There were many outside activities, ranging from barbecues to sightseeing and educational trips to such places as Mount Hermon and Eilat.

Friday mornings particularly were very busy as members gathered to chat over a cup of coffee and wish each other “Shabbat shalom”. Saturday evenings were also well attended with occasional speakers and dart players (we had two boards). Card games were very popular and the club had an annual competition for “Kalooki‟ and “Clobyosh‟. There were also activities held on Monday evenings, including a discussion group initiated by Ron Lerner. A theatre review performing group, “The Geri-Actors‟, was formed which put on stage shows with such titles as “Karmiel Capers‟ to thegreat amusement of club members.

 

However, around 2004/2005, BOS announced that, as their “raison d’être “was not to finance olim, but rather to raise money for projects”, they could no longer pay for the club. Meetings were held and a feasibility study was made to see if we could run the club without financial aid.

 

This meant building a team of volunteers who would serve snacks and drinks in the canteen (previously a salaried position) and a committee to run the place. At a meeting of potential volunteers, I was pleased to be elected chairman of the newly re-named “Karmiel English Speakers Club”. (Because the membership of the Club was now international rather than mainly British, we chose our current name as being more appropriate to the changed circumstances).

 

In order to ensure that our arrangement would suit BOS I went to meet with their officials. They said that we could carry on with the club, providing that the premises would be looked-after and no financial demands would be made on them.

 

Another stipulation was that we would need to insure against third party claims.

On behalf of the club, I accepted their conditions and then to secure our tenure of the place, I said that we would prefer to pay a nominal rent. They suggested 1000 shekels per annum and I countered with an offer of 100 shekels per year to which they readily agreed! (BOS was later incorporated into the UJIA {United Jewish Israel Appeal}).

 

Next, I went to see Michael Zetler, a lawyer who had acted for me on personal matters, and he agreed to act for the club in a “pro-bono‟ capacity. He arranged for it to become an “Amutah” (registered charity), thus relieving us of certain financial obligations. Once all these changes were put into effect, a grand re-opening ceremony under the club’s new title and management was held in 2005 and this was attended by the Mayor of Karmiel, Mr. Adi Eldar.

 

Club membership continues to grow as more and more English-speaking olim arrive in Karmiel, especially on the “Nefesh B’Nefesh‟ Go North program and today boasts more than 70 members.

There are activities most days of the week and the club provides a focal point for those Anglos who feel most comfortable speaking their native tongue, no matter how proficient they may have become in Hebrew.

 

May it go from strength to strength! J.W.