Category Archives: Your Stories

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 so 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.

After a year of college, I made aliyah to Jerusalem to be back in yeshiva while dealing with my draft. Being a Type 1 Diabetic, I was initially given the profile of 21 which means exemption from service. After submitting loads of medical documents and many visits to the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv draft offices, my profile was raised to 25. This allowed me to volunteer in a non-combat position. I drafted in November 2016, and served with an elite combat unit in the West Bank for my entire enlisted service, after which I signed on for an additional year in the Artillery Corps. My proudest moment would be when I got the award for being one of the top soldiers in my platoon. If I were able to serve in any unit it’s really a toss up between Yahalom (the elite engineers), Duvdevan (counter-terror and under-cover operations in the West Bank), or Shayetet 13 (similar to the Navy Seals).

I’ve been living in Jerusalem since I’ve made aliyah. It’s rather central to everything and I have family members who live in the city. Having made aliyah and only having worked odd jobs there wasn’t really any career transition, the army being my longest term job. The army does provide a pension plan for career soldiers, which I am now considered so I do receive that for the time I have remaining in the army. Not really the longest term plan, but it’s a start!

A couple of tips I’d give to people considering aliyah: thoroughly research the rights that come with aliyah and be open to people correcting your Hebrew. It cracks me up how far I was from getting words right.

Overall I’m very happy with my aliyah. I’ve met people from all over the world and experienced things I don’t think I’d experience anywhere else!

Your Story: Jason Marx

I grew up on the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. After finishing school I was hungry for adventure, I wanted to learn more about Judaism as well as live on my own. I packed a bag at 19 and went on a gap year program in Israel, fully expecting to come back to Cape Town to start uni at the end of my gap year. 

I had a really life-changing first year in Israel. I focused on inner growth as well as learning in yeshiva because this was the first time in my life that I had the opportunity to do so. While in yeshiva I begin to travel the country visiting as many places as I could, especially for Shabbas. I began to meet the most amazing people living here, with fascinating and inspiring stories. The more I explored the land, the more I grew to love it and then it was all over- in a flash my amazing year in Israel was coming to an end.   

I felt that I’d gain so much in that year yet I had so much more I wanted to experience. The thought of college lingered over me like a black cloud, I wasn’t really even sure what I wanted to study. I realized that Israel could be my home, but I couldn’t even read Hebrew from a Siddur let alone speak it. One of the requirements for making Aliyah at my age was serving in the army- how was I supposed to do the army with no basic Hebrew?

After a lot of research, I found out that you have a year before the army calls you up. So I decided to make officially make aliyah while still living in Israel, a process that took about 3 months. I started looking at ulpans (places that teach you Hebrew) and I realized that the most effective way to learn a new language is to be immersed in it. Ulpan is great for learning grammar, but if you don’t practice it then you’ll never be able to speak it. So I decided to make a radical change and moved to an all Hebrew speaking Yeshiva. It was the first time I was living with Israelis, and in the beginning it was very tough and lonely. After about 8 months, my constant exposure to Hebrew had paid off. I’d learned to speak Hebrew fluently enough that I could understand my classes in Yeshiva as well as participate. 

All of that happened 7 years ago. I have just finished a 3-year degree. There are many things that happened in the middle that are beyond the scope of this article, but to make a long story short I can say that my aliyah was at times very difficult and lonely. But every year I integrate more into society, I make fewer mistakes both with the language and the bureaucracy, I connect more with myself, and most importantly I make deeper connections with our land and the people around me. With each new year here I strive to build and live a purpose-filled life. 

One of the most important things to having a successful Aliyah journey is to find a good community of people that you connect with. For me, after asking around about different areas where religious young professionals are, I found out about Givat Shmuel. It’s the largest student community in Israel with over 1500 students. Living here and making close friends all while studying has really made it so much easier and enjoyable living in Israel.   

I’m at an exciting new stage in my life where I’m actually about to finish university and embark on the next chapter in my story. If you are considering making a life change and taking the plunge and actually making aliyah I would implore you to come knowing there will be bad days but know that if you are willing to make this work it is no dream!     

If I had to give you a few tips from my personal experience I would encourage you to:

-Be open to trying new experiences and new things. Having the mindset that Israel’s culture should be like the county you are from will only disappoint you.

-Try and be positive and easy going, in Hebrew we say zorem…or go with the flow.

-Learn about how to budget and manage your finances. 

-Do ulpan, but know it’s not enough to learn the language. You need to find a way to immerse yourself in it so that you can practice using conversational Hebrew.

-This last point is one that’s quite literally changed my life, it’s helped me to land the position in the army that I wanted, a full scholarship to a university, a large group of friends and many other things… it’s a general tip not connected to aliyah but one that has positive consequences in any area of your life. Learn to be charismatic, in other words, learn how to connect to many different types of people. If you can do this, then any problem you face in Israel you will be able to use your people skills to find the information and help that you need. A good place to start is by checking out “Charisma on Command” on YouTube.

Aliyah was just the first step but the rest of the journey is still ahead. The key is to try to embrace the ups and ride the lows, because at the end of the day all we can do is live and try.

Your Story: Andrew Fowler

When did you make Aliyah?

August 2018.

What made you decide to make Aliyah?

In 9th grade I watched the documentary Beneath the Helmet. Two of the soldiers were chayalim bodedim (lone soldiers), and I fell in love with the idea of moving to Israel and volunteering to serve in the IDF.

How did you decide which community to move to?

Since I am a lone soldier, I was taken in by an adopted family in Har Homa. It’s a predominately Israeli community, with secular and Dati Leumi neighborhoods. It’s close to Ramat Rachel and Gilo. A bus ride away from Shuk Mahane Yehuda.

Why did you want to be a lone soldier?

I’ve always wanted to serve in the military, and Israel has a greater need.

How is your Aliyah experience going so far?

I just finished a year at a mechina (pre-army program). I am now looking for a place to live on my own. I’ve had my Tzav Rishon (first summons) for the IDF, and I’m set to draft in August.

What tips do you have for someone who is considering Aliyah?

Learn Hebrew. If you know Hebrew, you can get through anything in Israel.

Your Story: The Stolovitskys

What made you decide to make Aliyah?

We considered ourselves Jewish communal workers all our lives. We wanted to strengthen Jewish learning and identity through our work and it was especially gratifying. We were proud to have been a part of building up so many future Jewish leaders. Some of our students are rabbis or leaders in the Jewish community, some were strong Zionists and now live in Israel. Others have fashioned meaningful Jewish lives and others have focused on needed goodness of a shared humanity. At some point, however, we decided to do something strictly for ourselves and live In the State of Israel where the next phase of Jewish history is being written. We love it here and while it is harder to make ends meet, my wife teaches English privately and I teach English full time in a great little elementary school in Haifa. I also edit articles for university professors and teach Russian lawyers via Skype. For them, I use the great American constitutional cases to teach English.

Are you still working in the same field you were in America? Did you have to change careers?

I haven’t changed careers so much as gone back to my first love of teaching. It’s actually great to be protected by a union. We are considered a successful Aliyah story.

How did you decide which community to move to?

We have found a great small community. We have not yet bought a house because our inexpensive Dallas homes don’t really go that far here.

Do you have any plans in place for retirement?

When you have a job being paid for what you love to do, you don’t really think that much about retirement.

What tips do you have for someone who is considering Aliyah?

Just know that houses are more expensive here and salaries are not that great. Hi-tech does well. But idealists will always find ways to do what they want and find tremendous satisfaction just being part of the incredible story here.

Your Story: The Tannenbaums

When did you make Aliyah?

August 1, 2018

What made you decide to make Aliyah?

😊

Really, before I got married

We had lived here for several years after we got married and planned on making Aliyah and coming back. Initially, we thought we would do so when we retired but for many reasons, we realized we didn’t want to wait that long. The idea that we have Israel to go to and we aren’t there was a dream that we didn’t want to push off any longer!
Different transitions and stages of life for our kids actually was a big part, being a Tanach teacher where Israel is THE focus of so much and working/learning in a ציוני school all contributed towards it.

How did you decide which community to move to?

We chose a place which would be a soft landing for our children.

Are you still working in the same field you were in America? Did you have to change careers? How did you enter the Israeli job market?

Pretty much- yes–Jewish education. Definitely had to figure out to make it work here. For my husband, the “shape and form” of Jewish educator is a very different one from what was. He was determined to come here with a job since this field can be quite full here and I am grateful to him for that. It means that he travels a lot which we don’t love but know that it part of the trade-off of adjusting career. This year gave me the opportunity to help settle us all in so I worked only part time. I applied to Seminaries from the U.S. and was fortunate to find a perfect start. Since being here and settling in, I have been fortunate to find more full-time work for the coming year. I had just started contacting NBN Employment to learn different options of how to branch out more when Hashem sent me a special opportunity! I am now involved in starting a new high school.

How is your Aliyah experience going so far?

BH, very grateful! It’s wonderful. Yes, there are some challenges but we are very blessed. I think the fact that we lived here for four years and have a decent Hebrew etc and REALLY want to be here are all contributing factors to our blessing but mostly, Hashem! Challenges can be in all forms – being new will always have its adjustments anywhere etc.

If you have children, how have they adjusted with the move? How did you decide which schools they should attend?

BH overall great. They definitely are on the ‘front lines’ with a lot of experiences and for the most part are doing really well. Working through challenges and planning ahead so some of them are limited or eliminated in a proactive way is critical. “Being there” for them and putting them in schools that match who each of them are etc are all important pieces.
Choosing schools has to do with both how a family is “hashkafically”-aligned and the type of learner the child is. Researching beforehand and if possible visiting are all important in making those decisions.

Do you have any plans in place for retirement?

Great question! Somewhat!

What tips do you have for someone who is considering Aliyah?

😊

I think really wanting to be here is key! I think putting yourself into situations (that you want to be in) to meet people is important. Those situations are different for everyone. Some people like social gatherings etc. I personally like meeting people organically as well. Showing up to shul or continuing with hobbies (running learning for me) helped me meet people that have common interests for example
Focus on the positive –in general in life—is a good one. We have a ‘line’ in our house that if people are complaining about something in Israel, we call out ‘meraglim’ – that doesn’t mean not being supportive of real issues to work with but the things that can make someone kvetchy…

Your Story: Yonah Taurog

When did you make Aliyah?

I made Aliyah in October, 2018.

What made you decide to make Aliyah?

After I finished a year of yeshiva in Israel, I knew that the Jewish State is the place to be and I would eventually make Aliyah. What made me make Aliyah now is Basia, my now-wife was already living here and I wanted to be closer to her.

How did you decide which community to move to?

I didn’t know that many American communities, and I wanted to be close to Americans when I first moved. I knew a few people in Givat Shmuel, and Basia is there studying at Bar Ilan. 

How did you enter the Israeli job market?

I graduated from Yeshiva University with a degree in computer science. I’m taking this boot camp program to teach data science in order to get into the computer science field.

How is your Aliyah experience going so far?

So far so good, but I haven’t had to face a lot of the challenges other olim have had to face yet.

Do you have any tips for someone who is considering making Aliyah?

Everyone says this, but have low expectations. Everyday there is something else to complain about, “In America it would be like this. In America we would have that. People would act like this….” Don’t expect Israel to be like America. The biggest challenge in Israel is the healthcare system. It’s really hard to get appointments to see a doctor. The easiest way to get care is to check yourself into an urgent care clinic.

Your Story: Simcha Lopez

When did you make Aliyah?

I made Aliyah November 15, 2017.

How did you decide which community to move to?

When I first came here, I was in Yeshiva. After I looked for places close to the center because that’s the location I was most familiar with. After living there for a year and a half, I moved to Katamon. It’s a very nice part of Jerusalem, quiet and a close bus ride into town.

How did you enter the Israeli job market?

I am not working in the same thing I was in America mainly because usually the only jobs a person who hasn’t done the army yet are in restaurants and cleaning. People don’t want to hire people that will only be working for a few months. Finding a job in Israel mostly comes from friends and contacts. There are also apps and Facebook.

Do you have any plans for retirement?

I barely have plans for tomorrow, much less retirement haha.

What tips do you have for someone who is planning to make Aliyah?

You have to have your values straight. Israel is a country where everyone struggles financially, culturally, and with the language. To move to Israel you have to be strong and ready to grow as a person. When it comes to potential, Israel can bring out the best in people.