Our Family

With years of experience and dedication, our professional staff is committed to bringing Livnot’s vision to life each day.  We invite you to get to know some of the Livnot family:

Aharon Botzer

Founder and Executive Director

Aharon was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and has a B.A. degree in Education from Ohio University. In 1974 he moved to Tzfat, and in 1980 Aharon and his wife, Miriam began Livnot U’Lehibanot in their home, which served as the main facility of the Livnot campus for 15 years. A non-combatant in his regular army service, upon going to reserve duty Aharon served in the infantry as a maggist (machine gunner) until his sixth child was born. After several years, he returned to serve in a combat unit until the age of 55. Aharon has been a licensed tour guide since 1984.

Meir Paltiel

Program Director

Originally from Syracuse, NY, Meir received his B.A. in American History and Political Science from Tulane University and his MS in Resource Management from SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry. He arrived in Israel in 1992, served in the Nahal Infantry Unit before moving to Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu. On the kibbutz, Meir was Assistant Manager of the Fisheries.

Currently, Meir oversees the facilitation and logistics of Livnot programs and has spent over eight years developing and implementing service-learning projects based in northern Israel and Jerusalem. Meir and his wife, Nechama, live with their six children just outside of Tzfat.

Gabi Nachmani

Community Service Director

As a child, Gabi witnessed the liberation of Jerusalem during the Six Day War. He joined the Israeli Defense Forces as a member of the Golani Brigade. Gabi graduated with a B.Sc. in agriculture from the Hebrew University in Rechovot. He also obtained a certificate in management from the College of management in Jerusalem. Soon thereafter, he met and married Tova Leah and together they spent the next two and a half years in Denver, Colorado where Gabi was the USY Director.  They taught Hebrew and Jewish education locally. Upon his return to Israel, Gabi spent a year at Yeshiva Har Etzion. He joined Livnot in February 1986 as Program Coordinator. Starting spring 1993, Gabi was the director of the Jerusalem operation for 15 years, and today he runs all aspects of the community service program, which to date renovated over 2700 Homes of needy families, both in the Jerusalem area and in the north. In 2007-9, Gabi ran Project Resilience in Northern Israel, where Livnot renovated 212 bomb shelters in Kiryat Shemona, Tzfat and Hazor.

Gabi and Tova Leah also co-created the legendary Shabbat guide and songbook, “Zemirot from Livnot.”

Michael Even-Esh

Senior Educator and Nature Guide

Michael was born and raised in Kansas City. He received a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism before moving to Israel in 1979. There he worked in a kibbutz date-palm grove, spent time as a shepherd in the Galilee, served in the IDF Paratroops, was a nature guide in the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, led Bar Kochba Tunnel exploration teams with the Israel Cave Research Center, and was an organic sweet potato farmer. Since 1991, he’s been working with Livnot U’Lehibanot as nature guide, teacher and outdoor educator. (One of the activities he invented at Livnot: “Pirate Rafting on the Jordan River.”)

His column (“Not Kansas”) is written specifically for Livnot alumni, and appears in “Livnotes” – the Livnot email newsletter for alumni. Michael also runs “The Jewish Snake Project,” in which he uses live snakes to teach groups about Jewish Values. He is a Snake Extractor for the Golan Regional Council and the Israel Nature & Parks Authority.

When asked what is the most amazing thing about working at Livnot, Michael answered: “The program participants. Livnot attracts the most incredible people.”

Things he has been quoted as saying:

  1. In a perfect world, your cave guide would not have claustrophobia.
  2. Before you die, try to farm for at least a few minutes.
  3. There is no such thing as a Jewmometer.

He lives with his family (and snakes) in the Golan Heights.

Yonah David

Director of Development

Yonah was born in raised in Woodmere, New York and attended the University of Vermont. After spending a semester in Madrid, Spain and learning fluent Spanish, Yonah returned to UVM to complete his B.A. With a passion to help people less fortunate than he, and also put his new language skills to use, Yonah decided to become a public interest lawyer. He received a J.D. at Hofstra University Law School and worked as a public defender in New York City for 6 years, an experience that continues to impact him to this day.

Drawn to natural beauty and away from the hustle-bustle of New York City, Yonah moved to the mountains of Colorado to become a small-town private practitioner. It was in Fraser, CO that he decided it was time to take what he thought would be a 6-month break from his career, and travel to Israel to explore his Jewish roots.

Yonah participated in a three-month Livnot program in Tzfat in 1998, and after the next 2 years shuffling back and forth between Israel and New York, he made Aliyah in 2001. Yonah met his wife, Leiba Chaya (also a Livnot alumnus, and then, a nature guide) while she was leading a Livnot hike. Yonah looked for work in the Jewish non-profit world for an organization with a strong track record of impacting North American Jews. An opening for a new position at Livnot arose, and Yonah worked as the Director of Alumni at from 2002 to 2007. He later returned to the Livnot staff in 2011 to become the Director of Development.

Yonah, Leiba Chaya and their four boys live in Moshav Yonatan in the Golan Heights, just minutes down the road from his favorite spot in Israel – Gamla. Yonah enjoys hiking and biking in his new “backyard,” playing soccer with his boys, and learning to play guitar.

Tzivia Polsky

Office Manager

Tzivia was born in Israel on Kibbutz Sa’ad and shortly after moved around the USA with her parents.  She returned to Israel on Aliyah to attend Hebrew University where she graduated with a degree in Social Research and Anthropology.  She married Shmuel shortly afterwards and worked in administrative positions in the center of Israel. A side trip to Chicago to advance academic degrees lasted eighteen years where their three children were born.  Today they are grown and producing grandchildren.

Returning to Israel in 1994, Tzivia held administrative positions in private industries, and moved to Tzfat to join the Livnot staff in 1996. She serves as the Office Manager, and is kept busy with record keeping, grant writing, translations, correspondence and as personal secretary to Aharon Botzer.

Shayna Rehberg

Director of Admissions and Recruitment

Shayna was born in Virginia and grew up in Texas, where she worked in real estate for a decade and sewed RenFest costumes for all her friends.  Living in Switzerland as a nanny and singing in a black Gospel choir and then a rock band in Germany were followed by aliyah to Israel in 2003.  After getting married, barefooted in the forest, the Rehbergs moved to a tiny desert caravan community where Shayna started a cloth diaper and healing oils business while they coaxed organic vegetables from the rocky soil.  Since rejoining civilization, Shayna has worked at the Jewish Federation of San Antonio and Torah Learning Center.  Back in Israel, her passion for community and borderline-OCD for organization are the driving forces behind her daily activities as Director of Admissions & Recruitment at Livnot.

Shayna lives with her husband, Aaron and their four children in Kfar Shamai, a small farming village that you can see from the Livnot balcony.  In all her spare time, she also enjoys photography, blogging, collecting knives and teacups, swapping stories, and operating a charity clothing shop out of her home.

Lea Saida

Administrator for American Friends of Livnot U’Lehibanot

Lea received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the American University in Washington, D.C. She served as Assistant Program Director at B’nai Brith Women International before making Aliyah.  In Jerusalem, she held the title of Director of Student Activities at the American College.

Lea later returned to the United States where she worked from 1992 through 2003 for the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County first as Coordinator for the Federation’s Mission 500 to Israel and then as Director of the Israel Programs Resource Center.  She has been with American Friends of Livnot U’Lehibanot since 2003.