Rhodes meet Berlin, and after one generation in Belgium life continues in Israel – Story of Max Daune

The story of Max Daune is a story of the Israeli dream. It’s a story that spans three generations. It’s a story of a man who continued the legacy of his maternal grandparents and built a life for himself in Israel. It’s the story of a man whose success was shaped by the generations that came before him.

Israel was built immigrants , even before it was recognized as the modern state in 1948. This year, it celebrates its 70th year as a liberal democratic country and the home of the Jewish people. Just in time for Israel’s 70th birthday, we focus on this personal story, which could very well be the story of any one of us. Max Daune was born to a Jewish, Israeli mother and a Belgian father. Here is the story on his mother’s side:

Max Daune with his family and grandmother

Daune’s grandmother was born in 1930 in Rhodes, which was a settlement of Italy at the time. The family fled to Israel soon after, as fascism and anti-Semitism began to take hold in Europe.

It was a tumultuous start in the land of Milk and Honey for the Daune family; when they arrived, the English refused to let them dock their boat. In what some might say was the original act of Israeli chutzpah, they decided to burn the boat, leaving the English no choice but to let them ashore.

Daune’s grandmother moved to Haifa and met his grandfather, who was from Berlin. They got married and had two children. But they decided to leave Israel for Belgium in 1958, when Daune’s mother was two years old and her sister (his aunt) was five.

“I don’t remember my grandmother saying anything specific about Israel,” Max tells GV Mag. “However, our whole family is here and there being just a few of us living abroad. Hebrew was (and still is) the language between my grandmother and her daughters. We’d visit Israel at least once a year to see the family.”

Growing up in Belgium, Max says he could feel the anti-Semitism more and more as he grew up. After high school, he decided enough was enough and that he was going to come to Israel. He studied at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) for a semester but went back to Belgium with some minor health problems. That wasn’t it for Israel, though. As soon as he got back to Belgium he had a desire to return to The Land. He studied for his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, graduated in June, and made aliyah that August.

“Besides the anti-Semitism, Zionism and the startup ecosystem were major factors in my decision,” he says, “I wanted to serve in the army. They let me go so I fought the decision, but it didn’t change anything.”

Max was left with no plan – but hope was not lost. He joined Gvahim and quickly found a job at financial company Deloitte Israel. Once he was settled, he founded his own company Powners, gaming company that helps avid gamers get better at their game. He got married one month later.

Now, Max is back at The Hive, Gvahim’s Tel Aviv- and Ashdod-based startup accelerator. The Hive provides entrepreneurial immigrants and returning citizens tools and mentoring to create and develop their startup in Israel in a 5-month immersive program.

“I’d say that if you really want it and are willing to make the effort (to learn Hebrew, integrate with Israelis) than it is totally worth it. But it’s not easy at all,” he says. “You need inner strength and problem-solving skills to overcome the challenges that come with a move like that.

In the end though, “I’ve never regretted coming here, and I feel way more at home than in Belgium!”

by Simona Kogan