by Abigail Klein Leichman
When he was a college student, Benjamin Terrell drove from Northern California to Panama in an eco-car powered by used French fry oil. These days, the religious father of eight drives a moving van in Jerusalem.
It’s been a long road for Terrell, 39, whose On the Move website describes him as “the happiest CEO worldwide.”
Established four years ago, On the Move found a niche among English-speaking Israelis looking for American-style service in their native language and among the growing number of Israelis who prefer to hire only Jewish laborers.
“At Berkeley, anything goes. The only prohibited thing is to say you have the only truth, and that’s what Judaism was saying – even though it respects other faiths -- and that turned me off. But Aish’s Essentials program encourages questions. Slowly but surely I progressed, and then something clicked in my mind about the possibility of belief in God,” he says.
Vera and Benjamin married in 2002 and have been living in Jerusalem ever since. Vera, who teaches capoeira to women, was followed to Israel by her mother, brother and sister. Terrell pursued his passion of composing and recording music; but as the family quickly grew, he had to find another source of income.
The couple’s first child, Hallel Hodaya, was born with a rare chromosomal disorder. Now 10 years old, she attends ALEH, a Jerusalem facility for children with multiple severe disabilities.
“Because of her, we got a lot of blessings in our life,” says her father.
One of those blessings came in the tangible form of a van with a lift in the back, a benefit from the National Insurance
“I was at a point in my life four years ago, with expenses piling up, where I didn’t really know what to do,” he relates. “A friend said, ‘Look, you have this vehicle with a lift. Why not move my washing machine for cash?’ So I did that, and it put some cash in my pocket. Then I put an ad on Janglo [the Jerusalem Anglo information exchange], and it snowballed from there. The van is registered in the name of my daughter, who doesn’t see, talk or walk, yet it enables our family to make a living here.”
Terrell built up the business with that van and a trailer [...] now he [has] his own truck.
“For a small business owner, the beginning is very difficult,” says Terrell, who took a course in Hebrew at the MATI Business Development Center in Jerusalem. “At first I was trying to do everything – take calls, do the scheduling and be a technician. Then I read Michael Gerber’s E-Myth, a book that was fundamental to growing my business by stepping outside it and creating a system.”
Two years ago, an American woman he knew was visiting her children in Israel and wanted to buy things from IKEA for their house. She had difficulty communicating with the staff in her limited Hebrew, so she hired Terrell to take her back, walk her around and explain the options, then haul back the smaller purchases and assemble everything when all the pieces arrived.
Considering the immense popularity of the IKEA culture worldwide, Terrell realized he had hit on a business idea: the On the Move IKEA shuttle, now available twice a month for a fee of NIS 150.
In addition to advertising on social media, Terrell keeps his company website up to date with customer testimonials and interviews, as well as blogs where people can share thoughts on the physical, spiritual and psychological aspects of moving house.
Layton had the idea of transforming the website into a forum for people to post their Jewish-themed art, including Terrell’s own music.
“The site keeps people enjoying the company’s service via extra content in the form of Jerusalem culture,” she explains.