Oleh Spotlight: Jeffrey Fantl

I made Aliyah in 2008 after my “year in Israel.” I knew it was now or never–I was 19 years old, just at the right age to make adult decisions without the adult responsibilities.

Nefesh B’Nefesh made my Aliyah process very smooth and I soon joined the Hesder program of my Yeshiva, and enlisted in the Paratroopers Brigade. After Hesder, I started my studies at the Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev), pursuing a degree in Applied Physics. I am set to finish the 4-year degree this summer.

What brought me here…I remember driving around Israel during my year in Yeshiva and seeing highway signs for Jerusalem. How easy it was to get to Jerusalem! I couldn’t imagine going back to a world where Jerusalem wasn’t so accessible. Also, I loved being part of the majority–how the bus marquees say “Chag Sameach” around Pesach, and the default greeting around December is “Happy Chanukah.” I never had that in the USA.

Yes we have our struggles here…I remember we were training in the field at 3 AM and my commander was telling me stuff in Hebrew and I just turned to him and said in English: “It is 3 AM. I have no clue what you’re saying.” But the Hebrew comes. Yes, I’ll always have an accent, but it’s part of who I am and where I came from. My grandparents always had Polish accents, and I always thought they sounded so wise. Makes me proud. People are always so impressed I made the leap.

School is free, so I don’t have any student loans. That’s huge.

I’m married with two kids. My wife made Aliyah around the same time that I did, and she studied for her nursing degree here in Israel. She is now working in the Pediatric Oncology ward in Hadassah Hospital. She absolutely loves her job and finds it extremely rewarding. She started out as an American Olah just like everyone else, and is now working in a completely Israeli environment and speaks Hebrew fluently. Yes, to learn the language you have to immerse yourself in it, but it’s possible and everyone wants to help you out.

At the end of the day, I feel very much at home in Israel. Yes, there are some huge cultural differences between Americans and Israelis, but that is made up for in a few ways. First of all, we all have the same roots, I love hearing the secular cab drivers quoting Tanach. Additionally, there’s such a huge Anglo community here in Israel that you can really connect to people that are on the same page culturally.

I love living here, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.