Israel has been my passion ever since my first trip with a youth group at age 18. Throughout college, graduate school, and a number of years of single life thereafter, the desire to visit and live in Israel did not wane. In 1984 my fiancé, Steve, joined me on a young adult leadership mission for his first visit. By the time our three kids were 10, 7, and 5 we were spending the summer at Ulpan Akiva located on the beach front of Netanya. Fast forward through 17 consecutive years of education at The Jacob Pressman Academy(www.tbala.org), a Solomon Schechter school, and through 10 years at Milken Community High School(www.milkenschool.org), our kids now know dikduk (Hebrew grammar) as well as know how to read and speak the language of the Jewish people. After years of Hebrew study I speak to five year olds well, and as for my husband, he can say, "My name is Steve."
Our three kids, Benji, Gaby and Sofia, spent a month of every summer at the Conservative movement's Camp Ramah in Ojai, CA and even participated on staff in a variety of positions in their post camper years. Has there been an Israel opportunity they have missed? Have you ever heard of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Twinning program, Camp Ramah's Seminar in Israel, Milken Community High School Tifferet, March of the Living, Nativ, Aardvark or Kivunim? Questions about the best Israel programs? Call me. Questions on how to pay for them? My answer is commitment to the cause, help from parents, and a devoted husband who loves the law. (Or as my semi-observant husband will tell you, “Hashem will provide.”)
Fast forward to today. After a very non traditional college experience of a year and a half in Israel, two quarters at Cambridge and a diploma from George Washington University Benji just celebrated his third year as an Israeli immigrant. At age 22, he spent a year in the Israeli army working as the Coordinator for New Immigrants at Tel Hashomer, an army base outside of Tel Aviv. He currently works for Nefesh b’Nefesh, a NGO aliyah organization developing programming for lone soldiers. After a year of college in Southern California, Gaby spent a gap year in Israel and made aliya in August 2011 as a participant in GarinTzabar. After an army Hebrew course and a stint in the course for shooting instructor, Gaby is now a dog trainer for German Shepard puppies, the dog of choice in the IDF. After having spent a gap year on Kivunim, our youngest child, Sofia, has taken the traditional college route and is currently a first year student at Barnard College in Manhattan.
And where am I? After visiting Sofia for parent's weekend in NYC I find myself back in Tel Aviv. After all NYC is five hours closer to Ben Gurion. It was a natural “might as well.”