Posted by Rob Eshman
The MacArthur Foundations released its list of recipients of this year’s MacArthur Grants, popularly known as the “genius grants.”
The Foundation awards its 24 recipients $500,000 over 5 years in unrestricted funds to continue his or her work. Typically, as The New York Times reports, the grant go to trailblazing artists, scientists and thinkers whose work crosses disciplines and boundaries.
So, to be crass, who’s the Jews? A cursory last-name check (we said, crass) reveals some obvious winners. The less obvious ones will emerge in updates.
This year there’s an eclectic batch:
Deborah Eisenberg, 63, a short-story writer. Isenberg, according to The Times, “grew up in Winnetka, Ill., dark-haired, Jewish, an outcast amid the blond students at school. The community was ‘anti-Semitic and restricted,’ she said. To make matters worse, she wore a metal and leather brace from her thighs to her ears for scoliosis.”
Of her last book The Times wrote:
With her fifth book of stories, Ms. Eisenberg has achieved the kind of grand attention usually given to novelists. The New York Times Book Review pronounced her “one of the most important fiction writers now at work” and praised her stories as “machines of perfect revelation deftly constructed by a contemporary master.”
The characters in Ms. Eisenberg’s stories are full of hidden sorrows and anxieties. She approaches them obliquely, circles around, then comes in for the kill. Their emotions rise inexorably to the surface, bubbles on molten lava.
Beth Shapiro, 33, an evolutionary biologist at Pennsylvania State University. Per Wikipedia:
Beth Shapiro is an evolutionary molecular biologist in the department of biology at the Pennsylvania State University. She was formerly a researcher in the department of zoology at Oxford University.
Shapiro is notable for a number of publications in ecology in journals including Science, and has carried out mitochondrial DNA analysis of the dodo.
She was born in the United States and grew up in Rome, Georgia, where she served as the local news anchor while still in high school. She was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1999.
In 2007, she was named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of 37 young American innovators under the age of 36. 
Elyn Saks, 53, a law professor at the University of Southern California, has written of her own mental illness and fights for the rights of the mentally ill. Of her book, “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness” , Publishers Weekly wrote:
“In this engrossing memoir, Saks, a professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Southern California, demonstrates a novelist’s skill of creating character, dialogue and suspense. From her extraordinary perspective as both expert and sufferer (diagnosis: Chronic paranoid schizophrenia with acute exacerbation; prognosis: Grave), Saks carries the reader from the early little quirks to the full blown falling apart, flying apart, exploding psychosis. Schizophrenia rolls in like a slow fog, as Saks shows, becoming imperceptibly thicker as time goes on.- Along the way to stability (treatment, not cure), Saks is treated with a pharmacopeia of drugs and by a chorus of therapists. In her jargon-free style, she describes the workings of the drugs (getting med-free, a constant motif) and the ideas of the therapists and physicians (psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, cardiologist, endocrinologist). Her personal experience of a world in which she is both frightened and frightening is graphically drawn and leads directly to her advocacy of mental patients’ civil rights as they confront compulsory medication, civil commitment, the abuse of restraints and the absurdities of the mental care system. She is a strong proponent of talk therapy (While medication had kept me alive, it had been psychoanalysis that helped me find a life worth living). This is heavy reading, but Saks’s account will certainly stand out in its field.”
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September 21, 2009 | 5:40 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
This doesn’t happen often.
And by “often,” I mean, “never.”
The president of a Shi’ite Muslim nation reached out to his country’s and the world’s Jews to wish them a happy new year, or “shana tova” in Hebrew.
President Ilham Aliyev sent a message of greetings to the Jewish community of Azerbaijan on the Rosh Hashanah holiday (Jewish New Year), then pinged it via e-mail to the rest of the world. The message reads:
We consider ethnic and religious diversity a historical achievement of the modern Azerbaijani society, in which traditional friendship, brotherhood and tolerance among different nations have always reigned.
Guaranteeing human rights and freedoms for everybody – irrespective of their language, religion and ethnicity – is one of the key priorities of our policy aimed at ensuring stability, peace and civil solidarity.
The independent State of Azerbaijan have always attached a particular emphasis to this issue and necessary democratic and legal basis had been created in the country to ensure that all national minorities, including the Jewish community, safeguard their national and cultural originality and traditions and develop their language and culture.
It is with great pleasure that I would like to note that our Jewish citizens are actively involved in the socio-political life of our country and the process of building democratic statehood.
The Rosh Hashanah is a holiday of renewal, repentance and moral purity. May this dear day bring good news, joy and happiness to you and your families.”
It’s possible that other Muslim rulers went through the motions of wishing their Jews a happy holiday. But what makes Aliyev’s pronouncement so meaningful is he seems to mean it. Azerbeijan is a small nation with a history of tolerance and an active engegemnt with israel and world Jewry. As I wrote in a column several years ago:
It is a majority Shi’ite country—70 percent Sh’ite, the rest mostly Sunni. It is a democratic secular state whose religious and ethnic minorities are embraced. Azerbaijan gave women the right to vote in 1919—one year before the United States did.
“My teachers were Jews. My doctors were Jews,” [Azerbaijan Consul General] Suleymanov said. “They have lived with us through good and bad times.” (Azerbaijan’s most famous Jew? Chess grand master Garry Kasparov.)
When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held his Holocaust denial conference earlier this winter, the Azerbaijani television station aired a debate on it featuring Arthur Lenk, Israel’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan (yes, the same man who was Israel’s deputy consul general in Los Angeles in the mid-‘90s).
“He got one full hour,” Suleymanov said. “There was a feeling he won the debate.”
It’s not just about tolerance. One-sixth of Israel’s oil supply comes from Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is an economically thriving, moderate and tolerant majority-Islamic nation with great oil wealth—like the real Kazakhstan, in a way.
Of course, Azerbaijan is small—8 million people to Iran’s 75 million. But Azeris, the ethnic group that makes up the majority of Azerbaijanis, account for some 20 million Iranians. Mullahs who have tried to gain traction for fundamentalist teachings in Baku have met with little success, and Azeris in Iran have had a liberalizing influence.
This is no shallow PR effort. The Jewish Journal’s contributor Gabriel Lerner traveled to Azerbaijan in 2008 and reported on a country where coexistence is a centuries-old value.
“Not unlike the Jews of Sefarad (Spain) during the First Caliphate,” Lerner writes, “Azerbaijan’s Jewry is interwoven into the fabric of this state, which emerged in August 1991 from the Soviet Union. And despite their minuscule numbers—maybe 12,000 in a population of 8 million—their presence is known and acknowledged…”
So, President Aliyev: Shana Tova right back at you. A year of peace for Muslims and Jews in Azerbaijan, and everywhere else too.
September 21, 2009 | 4:31 pm
Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
The Los Angeles Police Department has shut down Wilshire Boulevard near Beverly Glen to investigate two suspicious backpacks found at a bus stop, according to the security desk at Sinai Temple. Sinai Temple, which is across the street from the bus stop, has not been evacuated. Sinai Temple security will remain in contact with LAPD as the situation unfolds. Sinai Temple is a 2,200 family Conservative congregation, which also houses Sinai Akiba Day School, a pre-school through eighth grade program with 560 students.
Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood is closed from Comstock to Warner.
September 21, 2009 | 3:49 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
The LA Times did its “let’s-get-this-Jewish-holiday-thing-over-with” duty today by running two large photos on Section A, page 3 showing Jews yesterday, the second day of Rosh Hashana, on Venice Beach.
The accompanying two line caption correctly stated that the Jews were engaged in performing the tashlich rite. And that’s it. Great that The Times is out there in the community, not so great that their information fails to provide even the bare bones of what actually happened. The Times sent a reporter/photographer to the event, but didn’t include the Who, What, When, Why and How.
Even if I weren’t married to the rabbi of the congregation that actually pulled off the massive event, I’d like to believe I’d still, as a mildly curious reader, wonder WHO ran the event, WHAT is tashlich, and WHY all these people do it.
So here goes: The outreach congregation Nashuva organized yesterday’s massive tashlich ritual at Venice Beach. Some 1000 people showed up for the group’s annual drum circle and shofar blowing, followed by the performance of tashlich. Attendees recited ritual blessings, then threw crumbs of bread into the water to symbolize the casting off of the previous year’s sins.
Tashlikh, the Hebrew word for “casting off” is a Jewish practice that dates back at least 600 years. The previous year’s sins are symbolically “cast off” by throwing pieces of bread into a natural body of flowing water.
“You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea,” reads the Biblical passage Micah 7:18-20, from which the custom is derived.
Nashuva began the service five years ago, where Venice Blvd. meets the beach. Traditionally held the first day of the Jewish New Year, or Rsh Hashana, this year, because the first day fell onj the Sabbath, it was held on the second day of the holiday.
At the event, Nashuva musicians led a drum circle, which Nashuva claims is the largest Jewish drum circle in the world. Musician Jared Stein blew the shofar between sessions. As the sun set over the ocean, Rabbi Naomi Levy, the founder and leader of Nashuva (and, full disclosure, my wife), led the attendees through several blessings, then walked with the crowd, which had swelled to over 1000, to the water’s edge, where they threw old bread into the waves.
The Jewish Journal has reported on the phenomenon of the ancient tashlich ritual becoming more and more popular with local congregations, as its combination of active ritual and nature appeal to a new generation of Jews. Even congregations far from the sea now include it in their High Holy Day activities, often times finding it a good way to join forces with other congregations, even other denominations.
Tashlich bridges the gap between those Jews who want to adhere to tradition, and those drawn to new forms of spirituality. That’s likely why the 1000 people at Venice Beach with Nashuva Sunday included many who said they had never stepped foot in a synagogue—and many non-Jews.
Nashuva is experimenting with other ways to do outreach as well. This year, the congregation again joins forces with Jewish Television Network to do a live webcast of the Kol Nidre services (viewable also at www.jewishjournal.com) beginning Sunday, September 27 at 6 pm.
September 18, 2009 | 12:06 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
New Year, same old s—-t.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the opportinity of a staged pro-Iranian, anti-Israel rally to oce again deny the Holocaust. According to The New York Times:
With sketchy accounts filtering past official media controls, Al Arabiya television in Dubai and the opposition ePersian Radio, based in California, said supporters of opposition candidates in the disputed June 12 election defied official orders from the Revolutionary Guards to avoid using the annual Quds Day, meaning Jerusalem Day, as a cover for protests, Bloomberg News reported.
Supporters of reformist candidates in the election maintain that President Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory in the vote was tainted by fraud. Protests over the vote have plunged Iran into its deepest political crisis since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Details of the reported clashes on Friday remained unclear.
The Associated Press, citing an opposition Web site, said that hard-liners attacked former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, and pushed him to the ground. Reuters quoted an unidentified witness as saying 10 supporters of Mir Hussein Moussavi, the leading opposition candidate in the June election, were arrested after thousands of people wearing the opposition’s hallmark green wristbands and shawls joined crowds marching to mark Quds Day.
The witness was also quoted as saying Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters had beaten the opposition marchers. Videos circulating on YouTube showed what seemed to be pro-opposition demonstrators chanting and singing on the streets of Tehran.
An article in our online partner Ha’aretz reported that the Iranian president also called for an investigation into the truth of the Holocaust:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday the Holocaust was a “lie” and a pretext to create a Jewish state that Iranians had a religious duty to confront.
“The pretext (Holocaust) for the creation of the Zionist regime (Israel) is false ... It is a lie based on an unprovable and mythical claim,” he told worshippers at Tehran University at the end of annual anti-Israel Quds Day rally.
“Confronting the Zionist regime is a national and religious duty,” the Iranian president said.
Ahmadinejad’s critics say his fiery anti-Western speeches and questioning of the Holocaust have isolated Iran, which is at odds with the West over its disputed nuclear program.
The hard-line president warned leaders of Western-allied Arab and Muslim countries about dealing with Israel.
“This regime [Israel] will not last long. Do not tie your fate to it?. This regime has no future. Its life has come to an end,” he said in the speech broadcasted live on state radio.
On Firday, tens of thousands of Iranian government supporters and dozens of opposition activists poured out onto the streets of Tehran for coinciding marches marking an annual pro-Palestinian commemoration.
Baton-totting police and security troops, along with the pro-government Basij militia that helped crush mass street protests this summer against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, were deployed along main squares and boulevards but the rallies kicked off peacefully.
Ahmadinejad joined one of the government-sponsored marches heading to the Tehran University campus where he was to address supporters before a Friday prayers service.
The opposition has said it would also hold its own protest Friday, despite warnings by the clerical establishment against anti-government rallies. There has not been a mass opposition demonstration since mid-July, when authorities cracked down heavily on the opposition.
Both opposition leaders - Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karrubi - were to appear at the opposition rally, raising concerns for a showdown between security troops and opposition activists.
By midmorning in central Tehran, dozens of opposition supporters in green T-shirts and wearing green wristbands - a color symbolizing the opposition movement - marched with fingers raised in the V-sign for victory and chanting “Death to the Dictator.”
Others shouted for the government to resign, carried small photos of Mousavi, while some women marched with their children in tow. There were also chants of: “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, but our life is for Iran” - a slogan defying the regime’s support for Palestinian militants in Gaza and Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrilla.
According to an eyewitness report published in a reformist Web site, a group of Iranian hard-liners have attacked a reformist former president while he was marching with opposition supporters at an anti-government rally in Tehran.
Witnesses said the attackers pushed ex-President Mohammad Khatami to the ground. It says opposition activists rescued him and quickly repelled the assailants.
Khatami has sided with the opposition in the post-election crisis that has gripped Iran. Another reformist Webs site says his turban was disheveled and he was forced to leave the march.
Eyewitnesses said earlier that Iran security forces clashed with supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and arrested at least 10 of them.
“Security forces just arrested over 10 people,” one witness said. “They are pushing protesters and beating them.”
“Supporters of Ahmadinejad are beating supporters of Mousavi near the Vali-ye Asr street [in central Tehran]. At least two protesters were injured,” the witness added.
Just hundreds of meters away on the main Keshavarz Boulevard, thousands of Ahmadinejad supporters marched carrying huge photographs of the president and also the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Some in the government-sponsored rally chanted: “Death to those who oppose the Supreme Leader!”
The demonstrations mark Quds Day - an annual event dedicated to condemning Israel and expressing support for the Palestinians. Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem.
On Thursday, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard warned opposition protesters against holding anti-government demonstrations, saying that if they attempted any sort of violation and disorder they will encounter strong confrontation.
Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, last week also warned the oppositions against using Quds Day for other purpose than demonstrating solidarity with the Palestinians.
The pro-reform camp claims Mousavi was the rightful winner of the June 12 presidential election and that the government faked the balloting in Ahmadinejad’s favor. Since the vote, thousands of opposition supporters held street demonstrations against the alleged vote fraud but were met with a heavy government crackdown.
The opposition says at least 72 protesters were killed in the violence that followed the election, while government officials maintain that only 36 died in the unrest - the worst in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the current regime to power. Thousands were arrested, and the regime’s opponents have charged some detainees were tortured to death in prison.
Customarily on Quds Day, Tehran residents gather for pro-Palestinian rallies in various parts of the city, march through the streets and later converge for the prayers ceremony. The ceremony was established in 1979 by the leader of the Islamic Revolution and founder of present-day Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Meanwhile, over in Iranian ally Syria, the regime has called for a boycott of Facebook.com after the social networking site changed its rules to allow Israeli residents of the Golan to list their country as “Israel” rather than Syria. The Syrian dictatorship also said it would ban Facebook from operating inside the country.
Facebook is enormously popular in Syria:it’s the way an entire generation of young Syrians interface with one another and the modern world despite living under a repressive government and a backward economy. Fortunately, the brave and cheeky writer over at BeirutSpring.com has figured a way around the Facebook ban. Check it out, and start the New Year by friending a beautiful Syrian….
September 16, 2009 | 7:52 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Posted by Tom Tugend
The truly ironic part of the brouhaha at the Toronto International Film Festival is that the protestors against Israel government policy are actually punishing the one segment of Israeli society that has consistently criticized the country’s internal shortcomings, the conduct of its wars, and the treatment of Palestinians and foreign workers.
Under the banner of “The Toronto Declaration – No Celebration of Occupation,” some 1,000 filmmakers, actors and academicians are insisting that the Canadian festival organizers revoke their decision to spotlight Tel Aviv in their new City to City program.
If they fail to do so, the Canadians will be “complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine,” proclaim the righteous protestors.
The uproar comes at a time that the prestigious Venice Film Festival conferred its top prize, the Golden Lion, on an Israeli film for the first time. The prize winner was “Lebanon,” in which director Samuel Maoz targeted Israel’s 18-year conflict with its northern neighbor to illustrate the futility and horror of war.
“Lebanon” is not the first Israeli movie to criticize its country’s recent wars from a foot soldier’s perspective.
In this and last year’s Oscar races, the scathing Israeli anti-war movies, “Waltz with Bashir” and “Beaufort,” were among the five finalists for foreign-language Academy Awards.
Can anyone imagine a scenario in which Hollywood produced a mainstream studio movie about the futility of American soldiers fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, now and not 30 years later? And then have the U.S. government heavily subsidize such a film, as is the case in Israel?
Israeli filmmakers are often even tougher on their country’s shortcomings and prejudices at home, to the point of making American Jews cringe, including those sitting on Oscar nominating committees.
During much of the past decade, the Israel Film Academy has bestowed top honors, and thereby automatic entry in the Oscar race, to movies that vied in painting the most self-critical and downbeat portrait of Israeli society.
In 2006, the self-lacerating “What a Wonderful Place,” featured a sordid lineup of Israelis, who pimp and rape imported Russian prostitutes, brutalize foreign workers, cheat on their spouses, humiliate their children and commit suicide.
In the following year, the top choice was “Sweet Mud,” the depressing story of a boy growing up in a 1970s kibbutz, whose members simply ignore the plight of his mentally disturbed mother.
The trend started earlier, in 1992, with “Life According to Agfa,” which was set in a Tel Aviv bar, in which the only sympathetic character was the Arab kitchen helper.
One cannot help but respect Israeli filmmakers for their willingness to display their country’s warts, as well as their restraint in not celebrating the Six-Day War victory with a series of John Wayne-style flag raisers.
But there is a drawback, as Israel yearns for the prestige and publicity of winning its first Oscar.
It happens that the committee that picks the nominees for best foreign-language movie is usually well salted with Jewish members of the industry. These may not be ardent Zionists, but they nevertheless resent heavy-handed portraits of all Israeli Jews as cheats, brutalizers and all-around lowlifes.
Apparently, Israeli filmmakers don’t see it that way, or don’t care, or both. When I raised such points with them during interviews, their reactions ranged from indifferent to resentful.
Not untypical was Dror Shaul, director of “Sweet Mud,” who observed that “We can’t be expected to make films in order to please others.”
On the other side of the credit ledger, Israeli movies have resisted the temptation to demonize the terrorists who regularly maim and kill Israeli civilians.
In such recent pictures as “For My Father” (Weekend in Tel Aviv), and to a lesser extent in “Seven Minutes in Heaven,” even suicide bombers are given recognizable human dimensions.
A growing number of Palestinian directors have sort of returned the favor.
Such movies as “Paradise Now” and “Lemon Tree,” have wasted no affection on the Israeli occupiers, but the latter are shown as human beings, not as caricatures or monsters.
Some years ago, I even recommended to my friends, only half-jokingly, that if they wanted to some nice Israelis on screen, they should patronize Palestinian, rather than Israeli films.
The most recent Israeli entries for Oscar honors happily have gotten off the ugly Israeli theme, and both “Beaufort” and “Waltz with Bashir’ came agonizingly close to taking home the coveted Oscar.
Both films were hardly recruiting posters for the Israeli army or part of the Israeli propaganda machine – a point that apparently eluded the Toronto protestors – but their sweaty, bored and scared soldiers came across as thoroughly understandable and universal human characters.
September 16, 2009 | 6:24 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has named as its next president Jay Sanderson, CEO and executive producer of Jewish Television Network (JTN), a nonprofit producer and distributor of Jewish-themed television programming.
Sanderson, 52, replaces John Fishel, who served 17 years as Federation president and resigned last January, effective next Dec. 31.
Read our full story here.
September 16, 2009 | 2:12 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
Former Californian residents (as of one week), Jolene Ilkay, 23, and Micky Jolles, 24, were among the 81 singles on the Nefesh B’nefesh charter flight to Israel on September 7—but they’re already taken. Jolles was on the flight with his girlfriend, Yaarit, and Ilkay was anxious to reunite with her Israeli boyfriend.
I could see both of them in commercials encouraging aliyah among post-college aged Jews. Both are highly attractive and genuinely passionate about Israel. With her All American blue-eyes, blond hair, Ilkay has the delicate features of a model, if only she weren’t so petite. I could see the athletic Jolles looking dashing in an IDF uniform. His bright-green eyes are made even brighter by his tan skin.
As part of the in-flight press, I chatted with them about the reasons for the move as we flew over the Atlantic on the El Al plane filled with 201 other olim making the move, and their respective journeys turn out to be very similar.
Born in Indianapolis but raised in San Diego in a Reform household, Ilkay first touched Israeli soil in 2004 as part of a Birthright-Taglit trip. It was love at first sight.
“Right when I landed, it was just a feeling I couldn’t explain,” she said. “I was connected to something, and I could choose to embrace it or not, and I chose to embrace it. Because I’m Jewish it’s a part of me.”
Jolles’ connection to Israel goes back to his parents. His New Yorker father and Brazilian mother met in Israel on a kibbutz. They got married and settled in Jerusalem, where Jolles was born, only to move back to America when Jolles was four years-old. He grew-up in Fresno, but his ties to the country of his birth never faded. He used up his bar mitzvah gift money to buy a ticket to Israel not long after he turned 13, a visit that solidified his connection.
“The biggest thing that put me over the top was when I did a year course with Young Judea right after high school,” he said, a silver Star of David pendant dangling over his light blue T-shirt. “That’s when I really grew attached to Israel, fell in love with it and started thinking in my mind that one day I’ll move to Israel.”
Ilkay and Jolles deepened their love to Israel while in college.
Following her free trip to Israel with Birthright-Taglit, Ilkay switched her major from nutrition to Jewish Studies at CalState Long Beach. She came back to Israel on JAM (Jewish Awareness Movement), spent a semester abroad at Tel Aviv University, and studied Judaism at the Neve Yerushalayim seminary in Jerusalem.
A student in agricultural engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Jolles was very involved at the AEPi Jewish fraternity even when he decided to put his studies on hold. He led pro-Israel rallies to counter the anti-Israel ones. He eventually moved back to Fresno where he got a full-time job as a salesperson at Circuit City. When Circuit City closed due to bankruptcy, he knew it was time to follow in the footsteps of his older sister, who had made aliyah four years earlier.
Sitting next to Jolles on the plane was his girlfriend, Yaarit, who, like him, lived in Israel as a child. Her Israeli parents moved to California when she was ten.
“We both had a very strong connection to Israel and the idea that at one time or another we’d move back to Israel,” said Jolles. “It happened to be the time right now for both of us, and we’re both happy together. The whole experience of being together makes it a lot easier. We have each other to lean on.”
It was on Ilkay’s last trip in 2007 that she met her boyfriend, Dor Amit, at a bar in Tel Aviv.
“He was just staring at me, and I was kind of annoyed by it,” she said. “He was starting at me because he wanted me to make eye contact with him.” Finally, she took his cue, and they spent the rest of the evening hanging out and talking.
“It was the best day of my life,” she said. They were inseparable for the next six weeks. They maintained a long term relationship, both waiting for the day when they would be together in Israel.
“He wants to make sure that I’m making aliyah for myself as well as for him, and I am. I wanted to do this before I met him. He’s just the cherry on top,” Ilkay said. “Dor’s the most Zionist person I ever met. I really love that about him. He would never live outside of Israel.”
Ilkay and Dor plan to live together in Herziliya, where Dor is studying government at IDC-Herziliya. She plans to study Hebrew, get an MBA, and find a job.
Jolles signed up for ulpan (Hebrew language school) in Haifa and plans to finish his degree in engineering, deferring IDF service until he graduates.
“I’m most excited about getting back into Israeli culture—the food, the music, the lifestyle,” he said. “It’s what really drew me back to Israel and what I’ve enjoyed most when I was there.”
When I asked her how she felt at that moment, Ilkay began to tear-up, smudging her meticulously applied eye-make up. “I’m just so excited. I really can’t explain it, like I’m going to cry. I’m just so excited. It’s definitely a feeling you can’t explain.”
And just when the interview was over, she came back, adamant to add, her eyes still wet. “I think it’s so unbelievable and special that I get to live the dream of my ancestors, and it’s so special that we as the Jewish community can immigrate to Israel. This is that dream that people wish they could have done, and now they get to.”
Stay tuned for my upcoming interview with them to find how their first month in Israel progressed.