When Erin Erskine found Tal on OkCupid, she messaged him, “I want to learn Hebrew. Would you be my conversation partner?” “What do I get out of this?” Tal asked. “The chance to talk to me.” At the time, Erin was living in Chicago and Tal was in Israel, but the two began communicating daily—first in Facebook messages and then on Skype. They shared stories about their families and friends, and soon found themselves chatting for hours a day. A few months later, Erin and Tal decided that it was finally time to meet in person. “I wanted to know, is he really this amazing?” Over the course of the next year, Tal flew to Chicago twice and Erin visited Israel once, exploring the country for the first time with her long-distance love. On Tal’s last visit to the US, he proposed to Erin and the two made a plan to create a life together in Israel. After participating in a five-month internship in Tel Aviv, getting hired by the company where she interned, and officially making Aliyah, Erin set down roots in Ramat Gan with Tal. “Even when we were far apart, we were both happy to put in the work for each other,” said Erin. “We knew it was a partnership that was better than anything we’d experienced before.”
A LOVE OF ZIONISM AND EACH OTHER
For Emily Mostow and Nati Wind, the challenge of their seven-month long distance relationship also paled in comparison to the life they looked forward to leading together in Israel. Emily was in her last year at Brandeis University when she met Nati, an American Hesder student at Yeshivat HaKotel, during a week-long vacation in Israel. The two went on a date only two nights after they met—and then proceeded to go on dates every single night until Emily flew back to the US. “I had wanted to make Aliyah since the eighth grade, so I knew I had to be with someone who cared about Israel as much as I did,” said Emily. As planned, Emily made Aliyah shortly after graduation. The day after she landed in Israel, Nati sent her on a scavenger hunt in Jerusalem to all of the places they had visited on their first date, and then proposed to her at Ben Gurion Airport. “Living in this country, becoming a teacher, and marrying someone who shares my ideals were all of my dreams come true,” said Emily.
For many Olim who fall in love in Israel, meeting someone who understands their dreams only makes their Aliyah experiences more fulfilling. This was how Eliezer Siminovsky felt when he met Aya Yisraeli at a barbecue on a kibbutz in Northern Israel. Though she was only 18, Aya appreciated Eliezer’s reason for leaving New York – to serve in the Israeli army. “She understood my Zionism and why I wanted to be close to my roots,” said Eliezer. While Eliezer worked in Europe and the US for several months, he and Aya kept in touch, picking up their relationship upon his return. After she finished her Sherut Leumi (national service), the two began studying at Bar Ilan University. A few months ago, they got married.
FULFILLING TWO DREAMS AT ONCE
For new Olim, finding love in Israel often comes with the added bonus of having a support system in Israel. But when Sabrina Mahoubi decided to give up her spot at New York University in order to attend university in Israel, she was set on making it in Israel on her own. In fact, when she met Uriya at a Yom Kippur break-fast in the Old City and he asked for her phone number, she declined at first. But then he persisted, and she agreed. The two traveled throughout Israel, taking in Israel’s museums and beaches, and spending time with Uriya’s family in Oranit. “Being in Israel alone really gave me the chance to depend on Uriya, and it became easier for us to become best friends,” said Sabrina. On a 10-day trip to Los Angeles, Sabrina’s family met Uriya, and soon after, the two got engaged. For their wedding, 80 people from Sabrina’s family flew to Israel to celebrate with the young couple.
ONLY IN ISRAEL
The chances of Moi Benchimol and Zisie meeting would have been slim—if they had not been next door neighbors in Israel. Their families both owned apartments in Jerusalem, and Moi would travel to Israel from his home in Venezuela, and Zisie from England to celebrate the holidays. While attending Yeshiva University in New York, Moi improved his English and became friends with Zisie’s older sister. On one Pesach vacation in Israel, Zisie’s sister set the two up. They took a Yom Tov walk around Jerusalem, and proceeded to keep in touch with visits from London to Miami to Caracas and back to Israel. “We come from different backgrounds and different languages, but we’re still so similar,” said Moi. “No matter where Jews live in the world, we all still have so much in common.” When Moi began an MBA program at Tel Aviv University, Zisie transferred from the London School of Fashion to Shenkar College in Tel Aviv, and made Aliyah. After dating for six months in Israel, the couple got engaged. “We were from opposite sides of the world, but we were far from strangers,” said Zisie. “It’s a love story that could only have happened in Israel.”