How to Get Married in Israel During COVID-19

My husband and I were matched online through sister sites Saw You At Sinai and See You in Israel (co-created by Nefesh B’Nefesh) on January 15, 2020. I was a critical care nurse from Texas, and Akiva was a policy officer for CIDI, a pro-Israel lobby group in the Netherlands. It was a perfect match. We had the same beliefs, values, religious observance, politics, and goals in life. After exchanging a few texts and calling a few times, it became clear that we had the exact same sense of humor as well! The only problem was we were living in two different countries, literally an ocean apart. Hearing I was planning a trip to Israel, Akiva decided to meet me there, and we met in person in Jerusalem. We went on two dates before returning to our respective countries. Then COVID-19 hit, and international travel was banned. We continued texting back and forth and making video calls that would last over 6 hours. Quite a feat considering a time difference of seven hours! We fell in love over our mutual love of Hashem, Israel, the Jewish people, and good memes. We met each other’s family over Zoom.

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I Made Aliyah, What Now?

So you made it to your aliyah flight! You brought your spouse, kids, luggage, and important documents (including the letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and your receipt of having completed the isolation form within 24 hours of your flight), and you’re wondering to yourself what it’s going to look like when you arrive. How does it all work when you land?

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Making Aliyah and Getting Engaged During a Pandemic

After gathering all of my documents and submitting my application for Aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh, I interviewed with The Jewish Agency over Zoom. The meeting went smoothly, and the questions were straightforward, such as where you think you’ll live, what kind of work you do, why you want to make Aliyah, and verifying your Jewish status. Depending on when your expected Aliyah date is, the Jewish Agency will then send you a “Mazal Tov” email approving your eligibility for Aliyah. This Mazal Tov email is valid for one year, after which you must reapply to make Aliyah. My Zoom meeting took place on July 31, and I received my Mazal Tov email on August 10. But because my parents’ (who also had their Zoom meeting on July 31) expected Aliyah date isn’t until November, they didn’t receive their Mazal Tov letter until September 10. A lot of people are making Aliyah now, and the Jewish Agency has to prioritize approvals based on expected Aliyah dates.

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My Experience at the Kotel

Technically my first time at the Kotel was in 2002. I was six years old and don’t remember much from the experience. I do remember it being very crowded, my mother had my brother and I wearing harnesses that resembled dog leashes so that we wouldn’t be separated. But this isn’t the topic of this post. No, my first true experience at the Kotel was during my Birthright trip in 2018.

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My Parents’ Pilot Trip

I recently took my parents to Israel to visit my brother. It was the only time all three of us would be able to come. It was also the first time my parents had been to Israel since 2002. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. There are many more stores with a wider variety of goods, traffic has skyrocketed, and thankfully, there are no more bus bombings. We were there to see my brother, but we also made it their pilot trip. This would probably be their only chance to visit Israel before making Aliyah, and they needed to experience the country as it is now.

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What About My Dog?

I have a dog. Actually he belongs to my brother, but he acts like a family dog. His name is Romeo, and just as his name suggests he is extremely loving and affectionate. We could not imagine making Aliyah without him; he is as much a member of our family as any of us. It’s no surprise then that he will be a part of our Aliyah story. In preparation for this, I researched what it will take to bring him with us.

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Your Story: Natan Bessner

My name’s Natan Bessner. I’m 23, and I made aliyah in August 2015 from Montreal after spending a year at a yeshiva in Jerusalem. That summer Operation Protective Edge broke out, and the disconnect upset me. I decided to return to Israel ASAP. Growing up I went to a Zionist school, took part in Bnei Akiva, and my parents always fostered the importance of the Jewish State. All of these reinforced my need to get back.

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What's Your Aliyah Story?