Faces of Aliyah 9-13-11

This week, JointMedia News Service introduces "Faces of Aliyah," consisting of profiles of Jews moving to Israel from communities across the United States. Are you interested in JNS pursuing these profiles for olim from your newspaper's community? If so, email jkamaras@jns.org and we will put in the request!

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Name: Ariel Johnston-Bernstein

Age: 26

Hometown: Fairfield, Conn.

High School: Fairfield High School

College: University of Haifa

Date of aliyah: July 14, 2005

Lives in: Haifa

Occupation: Doula (provides non-medical physical and emotional support to women and their families during labour, childbirth, and the postpartum period)

Why did you make aliyah?  

An inexplicable feeling that I belonged here. 

What do you love most about living in Israel?

It’s not always an easy question to answer, life here is very hard, but it’s like nothing else. I couldn’t live my life like this in the states. There is something about being a Jew in Israel that can't be replicated anywhere else in the world.

Describe a neat place you’ve discovered in Israel that you wouldn't have found as a tourist.

There are so many! I have worked with so many tour groups, and seen so many places. But I think one of my favorite is just the view from my own house. I can look out and see the whole north (I live on the crest of the Carmel Mountain in Haifa). It’s amazing to wake up everyday and see your country like that. 

What advice do you have for people who are considering aliyah?

If you are going to do it, do it completely. Commit completely. Don’t allow yourself to stay in an American bubble, that’s not why you wanted to live in Israel. Learn Hebrew, speak it every day, make friends with Israelis, learn to do things for yourself here, that’s the only way you can survive. I think so many people go back to America saying it didn’t work for them to be here because they wanted to live the same life they did in America, just in Israel. You have to be prepared to live a very different life here, and to fight for it. Just know that if you do, it’s worth it. Integrating is hard, and with so many Anglo organizations these days I think it’s easy to never assimilate, but its crucial to making a home here. Otherwise you will always just feel like a permanent tourist.

“Only in Israel” moments:

1. When I entered the army.

2. Most people at my wedding were wearing jeans.

3. Getting my gas mask at the post office.

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Name: Rich Kirschen

Age: 48

Hometown: Woodmere, NY

High School: Hewlett High

College: Hebrew Union College

Date of aliyah: August 19, 2004

Lives in: Jerusalem

Occupation: Reform rabbi

Why did you make aliyah?

I wanted to live in a public culture that was Jewish.

What do you love most about living in Israel? 

It is the best place in the world to be Jewish.

Describe a neat place you’ve discovered in Israel that you wouldn’t have found as a tourist.

The army.

What advice do you have for people who are considering aliyah?

“Teum Tzipiyot.” Adjust your expectations to reality.

“Only in Israel” moments:

1. When my kids correct my Hebrew and not the other way around.

2. When my plumber looked at my leaky basement and explained to me, "Water is powerful—it’s like Torah."

3. When there is a minyan during halftime at the Hapoel Yerushalayim basketball game.

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Name: Shira Geula Wolkenfeld

Age: 24

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

High school: YULA girls high school (yeshiva university high schools of Los Angeles)

College: California State University, Northridge

Date of aliyah: July 7, 2010

Lives in: The neighborhood of Kiriyat Yovel in Jerusalem

Occupation: Graduate student in public health at Hebrew University and work in education (tutoring)

Why did you make aliyah?

I love Israel and feel it’s important for the Jewish people to live in their homeland.

What do you love most about living in Israel?

I love the chagim and how the buses wish you a chag sameach, and how the whole country is excited to celebrate together.

Describe a neat place you’ve discovered in Israel that you wouldn’t have found as a tourist.

My friends and I went on a great hike in Ein Kerem on a trail called “Shvil Maayonot.” The path starts behind the parking lot at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and then stretches into the hills.

What advice do you have for people who are considering aliyah?

Learn a little Hebrew and don’t be afraid or hesitant to ask questions when you get here. Come with a sense of humor and a lot of patience. The aliyah process can be overwhelming but in the long run it’s totally worth it.

“Only in Israel” moments:

1. Going to a restaurant and seeing the ritual hand-washing station.

2. (Before Tisha B’Av) A woman offered to host for me for a pre-fast. It’s like we’re all family.

3. Seeing sukkot on the porches of restaurants and apartments. 

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Name: Jamie Lyn McIntyre

Age: 26

Hometown: Los Angeles, then Las Vegas.

High School: Chaparral High School

Date of aliyah: July 12, 2011

Lives in: Ra’anana

Occupation: None

Why did you make aliyah?

I fell in love with Israel ... and with a soldier.

What do you love most about living in Israel?

The land, and being able to experience the Jewish traditions first hand.

Describe a neat place you’ve discovered in Israel that you wouldn’t have found as a tourist.

The lake in Ra’anana. It’s very special to me and my boyfriend

What advice do you have for people who are considering aliyah?

I recommend it for anyone trying to find themselves.

“Only in Israel” moments:

1. Praying at The Kotel (The Western Wall)

2. Floating in the Dead Sea

3. Rafting down the Jordan River 

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Name: Daniel Feldman

Age: 27

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

High School: Thornhill Secondary

College: McGill University

Date of aliyah: November 2008

Lives in: Tel Aviv

Occupation: Social media marketing for a high tech company

Why did you make aliyah?

I made aliyah because I enjoyed living here so much the year before I didn’t want to leave.

What do you love most about living in Israel? 

The personal growth that comes from identifying more with your roots and battling everyday challenges. And the weather and beaches.

Describe a neat place you’ve discovered in Israel that you wouldn’t have found as a tourist.

Har Megiddo (mountain of Megiddo)—It’s the site where Armageddon is supposed to take place.

What advice do you have for people who are considering aliyah?

If you are considering Aliyah you should just go for it. Or else you'll never know. Aliyah isn’t a life-sentence, you can always go back to your previous country if things don't work out.

“Only in Israel” moments:

1. Getting off at the wrong bus stop on the way to a wedding and hitchhiking the rest of the way.

2. Having family invite you over for dinner where everyone, including their 2-year-old son, enjoys a shot of vodka.

3. Waiting five months for my first bank (I’ve since left them) to deliver me a proper, working bank card and code. At least 10 cards/codes didn’t work.

Posted on September 13, 2011 and filed under Faces of Aliyah, Israel.