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Dream Comes True in Camper Bus

camper-1 All aboard . . . Dani Margolis and his VW Camper Bus
Hitting the road ...Dani Margolis (center) with father Phil, brother Ilan, and the VW camper bus

To say that Leeds-born Israeli educator and tour guide Dani Margolis has a special relationship with his cars would be an understatement.

First of all Dani, a natural born 'petrol head,' has a number of vehicles parked alongside his kibbutz abode, all of which he has taken apart and rebuilt at some stage.

However, it is an eye-catching bright orange and white 50-year-old VW camper bus that has etched a very special niche in the former Leodensian's heart (and back muscles one wouldn't wonder) after realizing a dream cherished since he was a kid—to follow in father Phil Margolis' tire treads and drive from England through Europe to Israel.

The driving genes, and skills, have passed not only from father to son but also from Dani to 20-year-old daughter Talya who is presently serving in the I.D.F, the commander of a Humvee* in an all female unit. Her 18-year-old brother Ori, a prize winning swimmer, is hoping to serve in a special unit of the Israeli Navy after completing a year of National Service and says Dani, his youngest son Guy (14) "is more interested in football at this point!"

To celebrate his recent milestone birthday, Dani (who was born in 1968 on Yom Kippur) drove 5,000 kms through Europe, joined by his London-based brother Ilan and Netanya-resident father Phil – the "three Margolis boys" as Dani referred to them, spending Yom Kippur (the Hebrew date his birthday falls on) in a Chabad shul on the French Riviera in Nice.

"There were so many amazing experiences during this journey but one of the most memorable was spending Yom Kippur in the Chabad synagogue in Nice, the VW parked outside, of course.

All three of us were called up as the congregation saw our journey as such a very special occasion. We were so warmly embraced by them and felt absolutely at home so far away from our own homes in England and Israel. An unforgettable and truly amazing experience for the three of us," explained Dani, standing alongside his VW pride and joy—special yellow Israeli vintage car plates adorning the front and rear of the vehicle.

Dani, who made aliyah by plane in 1991, bought the VW camper bus twenty years ago from an Israeli living in the Jezreel Valley town of Afula—a half hour drive from his Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet home on the Menashe Hills overlooking that valley.

"When I was in Afula one day I spotted the VW and put a note on the windscreen asking if it was possibly for sale and if so, my phone details. It took two weeks before the owner called me, told me the engine no longer functioned and various other glitches and was willing to sell it. I didn't think twice before paying the 5,000 shekels price asked.

Prior to being bought by the Afula resident, the vehicle had been used as an ambulance for many years in Ginnegar, another of the Jezreel Valley kibbutzim and situated very close to that town.

After taking the decision to make aliyah a second time after 27 years, this time by land, Dani sent his trusty VW bus off by ship from Haifa to Southampton before flying himself a month later, collecting the camper from the English port and beginning an adventure of a lifetime.

"When I was a kid growing up in Leeds my dad would often speak about the years he spent at Ramat Hashofet and Kiryat Gat in the 1950s and the subsequent trip he made from England with three friends to Israel in a Ford Anglia in the early 1960's. They drove as far as Eastern Turkey, where they took a ferry to Israel and eventually made it back to England the same way.

"I remember promising myself that one day I would do that and putting my love of cars and Israel together with my 50th birthday was definitely the realization of a long held dream," explains Dani, who married a member of Ramat Hashofet, the kibbutz where his father Phil had lived so many years before. Dani worked for many years in the orchards and kibbutz gardens— "anywhere where there was a tractor to drive," he quips, and also guided overseas tourists.

A younger sister Yael and her Londoner husband made aliyah eight years ago, settling in Tel Aviv, and parents Phil and Cecily followed in 2012 and nowadays live in Netanya.

"As a youngster in Leeds I would forever be messing around with my father's cars and be somewhat bewildered when I had a part or two left over after I had put everything back together again—or thought I had," he says with a grin.

"However that certainly paved my way to deciding to study mechanical engineering at Manchester University and I haven't looked back—or out from under a car engine—since."

Following his service in the I.D.F Combat Engineers, Dani studied for his Israeli tour guide license. In present times he concentrates on eco-tours in Israel, taking visitors to off-the-beaten-track sites in search of rare flowers, migrating birds, wild animals and so much more.

Like his father before him, Dani was a member of the Habonim-Dror movement in the U.K. where he attended camps, first as a chanich and then madrich and in 1984 spent time in Kfar Hanassi on the movement's year leadership program.

After making aliyah he spent six months living with Bedouins in the Negev encampment of Mamshit, the Nabataen city of Mampsis (Memphis), an important station along the ancient Incense Road. He also spent many a month working on the archaeological site of Tel Morasha (Beit Govrin), where he has volunteered almost every year since.

"The over 5,000 km trip through Europe, in a vehicle as old as I am, with my brother and father as travelling companions for part of the way, was incredible and equally incredible was the fact that the VW did not break down even once enroute!"

Following their journey through Europe, the other "Margolis boys" flew back to their respective homes as Dani met up with his wife and children in Greece for a holiday together before all returning to Israel—by air, the VW coming home on a cargo ship from Athens, Dani eagerly awaiting its arrival at the port and drive home to the kibbutz.

Dani can be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;

*Humvee: The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV; colloquial: Humvee) is a family of light, four-wheel drive, military trucks and utility vehicles.



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