Natan Sharansky, born 20 January 1948 is a prominent Israeli politician, human rights activist and author, who spent many years in a Soviet prison for allegedly spying for the Defense Intelligence Agency. Natan Sharansky has served as Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency since June 2009.
Natan Sharansky is married to Avital Sharansky and has two daughters, Rachel and Hannah. In the Soviet Union, his marriage application to Avital was denied by the authorities. They were married in a Moscow synagogue in a ceremony not recognized by the government, as the USSR only recognized civil marriage and not religious marriage.
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein served the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in numerous positions from 1976 until 1986 when he was named Chief Executive Officer---a post he held until his retirement in 2009. Upon retirement, he assumed a part time position, co-coordinating and directing the Israel operations of the United Synagogue until November 2012.
Currently, he is the volunteer president of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, which led the campaign to foster the Aliyah of Ethiopian Jews, serves as their advocates in Israel and provides a network of schools that supplement Ethiopian children's public school education.
Rabbi Epstein earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master's of Science from Old Dominion University, a Doctorate from Temple University and a Masters and rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary from which he also was awarded an honorary doctorate.
Before joining the United Synagogue, Rabbi Epstein served as spiritual leader of congregations in Galveston, Texas and Portsmouth, Virginia.
Rabbi Epstein is married, with three children (one of whom is married) and five grandchildren.
He and his wife made Aliyah in April 2013
My wife and I have been committed to Israel since our youth. I have visited over 75 times and we have brought our children in order that they might develop an attachment. Although my life's career choice made the option of Aliyah unlikely while I was working full time, my retirement offered me an opportunity to spend time in Israel in increasing increments. We bought a residence and began to experience what it might be to live here---at least part time. We still maintain a residence in Boca Raton, Florida, but every time we return to Jerusalem, we feel like we're "home".
We love living in an environment in which Jewish living is a natural phenomenon and in which the Holy Days are part of the calendar and cycle of normal/daily life.
Celebrating Israel in Israel. It's authentic.
Shahar Pe'er is an Israeli professional tennis player. Her career-high singles ranking is world no. 11, which she achieved on January 31, 2011 (it is the highest ranking ever for an Israeli singles tennis player, male or female).
Pe'er's father, Dovik, was born in South Africa in 1955 and came to Israel in 1961. Shahar began playing tennis at the age of six when she joined her brother and sister in tennis lessons.
During her army service when not abroad participating in tennis tournaments, she spent her mornings working as an administrative secretary for the Israeli military, and her afternoons practicing tennis.
My mother’s parents were born in Czechoslovakia and were both in the Shoah, my mother in Aushwitz and my grandfather was a partisan. My father’s mother was born in Israel, and my father’s father was born in Lithuania and made Aliyah as a volunteer doctor and met my grandmother who was a nurse.
The people are warm and the country is special. When I am here I feel great. I am very often in other countries and there is a big difference between other countries and ours and our happiness and unity as a people. I feel at home here.
I am always happy when I get to be home for Yom Ha’atzmaut as it doesn’t happen every year. There is a feeling of holiday. The whole family gets together and everyone is happy and proud of our nation.
Edan Tamler is a 17 year old singer, born and raised in Queens, NY, and former contestant in the first season XFactor Israel with the band FUSION. He is also in the band ”Hayechefim”- “The Barefoot.” Tamler made Aliyah two years ago with his family from New York. They currently reside in a small yishuv in Misgav called Yuvalim in the North. He has a younger brother and sister who are acclimating quite well. Edan sang in a choir in high school in New York before making Aliyah and being discovered on YouTube by XFactor.
What is your Aliyah story?
My parents always talked about moving back to Israel (my mother is Israeli, my father is American), they just didn’t know when. They took a summer and planned it out, kind of spontaneous. I was in the middle of high school so I was a little nervous and a bit reluctant to go. I finished 10th grade and then we made Aliyah.
Our Aliyah story is a little different because we came from the biggest city in the world, NYC, to a yishuv in the North and ended moving to Yuvalim in North Galilee. I was the only nervous one in the family but I didn’t know how I would enjoy living in Israel more than living in New York.
The first day we moved in two kids from my grade heard I was coming and came to my door. They asked me what I like to do for fun and I told them I like to sing. They said, “Wow you sing? We’re in a band and we’re looking for a singer!” Right away they put me in the band!
My Hebrew is good because my mom spoke to me in Hebrew all of my life and it also helps that I was thrown right into a Hebrew-speaking chevre- group of friends.
What do you love about living in Israel?
I love everything about living here. I love the freedom teenagers have. In NY all you know is school and here they try to introduce many outside activities like major trips during the year. It is a completely different environment than I was used to, very laid back, no one is under pressure at school and things are really working out for me.<
What is special for you about Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel?
Even though we celebrate in America, it’s really different to celebrate here. When you live here you really feel the connection to this, our state. Yom Haatzmaut is the day that commemorates that. Living in New York you can’t really appreciate what the day means.
This Yom Haatzmaut I will be singing in our yishuv, commemorating the singer Nomi Shemer. I will be singing two of her songs. I perform two days after that in Misgav at a big performance. It’s really amazing.
Rabbi Yisrael (Israel) Meir Lau is an Israeli and the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Israel, and Chairman of Yad Vashem. He previously served as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1993 to 2003.
Lau was born on 1 June 1937, in the Polish town of Piotrków Trybunalski. His father, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau, was the last Chief Rabbi of the town; he died in the Treblinka extermination camp. Yisrael Meir is the 38th generation in an unbroken family chain of rabbis.
Lau was freed from the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945, after Rabbi Herschel Schacter detected him hiding under a heap of corpses when the camp was liberated. Lau has credited a teen prisoner with protecting him in the camp (later determined by historian Kenneth Waltzer to be Fyodor Michajlitschenko). His entire family was murdered, with the exception of his older brother, Naphtali Lau-Lavie, his half brother, Yehoshua Lau-Hager, and his uncle already living in Mandate Palestine.
Lau immigrated to Mandate Palestine with his brother Naphtali in July 1945, where he studied in the famous yeshiva Kol Torah under Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as well as in Ponevezh and Knesses Chizkiyahu. He was ordained as a rabbi in 1961. He married the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchok Yedidya Frankel, the Rabbi of South Tel Aviv. He served as Chief Rabbi in Netanya (1978–1988), and at that time developed his reputation as a popular orator.
Lau is the father of three sons and five daughters. His eldest son, Moshe Chaim, took his place as Rabbi in Netanya in 1989; his son David became the Chief Rabbi of Modi'in, and later Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel; and his youngest, Tzvi Yehuda, is the Rabbi of North Tel Aviv. Lau is the uncle of Rabbi Binyamin (Benny) Lau, an educator and activist in the Religious Zionist movement, and Amichai Lau-Lavie, the founder and artistic director of the Jewish ritual theater company Storahtelling.
Lau has often been characterized as the "consensus rabbi", and has close ties to both Haredi and Modern Orthodox Judaism, particularly in regard to his politics, which have been characterized as moderate Zionist.
In 2008, Lau was appointed Chairman of Yad Vashem, succeeding Tommy Lapid.
Gabriela Shalev is an Israeli jurist and was Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.
Shalev was born in Tel Aviv in 1941. Her mother's parents were murdered in Auschwitz, and her father's parents had to leave a comfortable life in Berlin and immigrate to the Yishuv. In 1959 she entered the Israel Defense Forces, and she was honorably discharged in 1961 as a Lieutenant. In 1966, she received an LL.B. (summa cum laude) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As a student, she helped support her family. She received an LL.M. (summa cum laude) in 1969, and Doctor Jur. (summa cum laude) in 1973, all from the Hebrew University.
Her husband, Shaul Shalev, was killed near the Suez Canal in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and she raised her two children alone. Shalev worked as a clerk at the Supreme Court of Israel from 1964 to 1966, and at the legal department at the Jewish Agency in 1967. She was admitted to the Israeli Bar in 1968. She was Chief Legal Editor of the Judgments of the Supreme Court of Israel from 1968 to 1980 (and again in 1998), and Chief Legal Advisor for the reform in national health services in 1991. She was Legal advisor, arbitrator, and expert in Israel and abroad, on litigation matters concerning national and international transactions. Shalev is regarded as a leading expert in Israel in the fields of contract law and procurement contracts, for which she has provided legal advice and crafted legal opinions, both domestically and abroad. She has written nine books and more than 100 articles in Hebrew and in English, mostly within contract law.
I was born in Israel to parents who made Aliyah separately in 1933 from Germany. My mother’s parents were killed in Auschwitz. My father’s parents left everything they owned in Berlin and made Aliyah from Germany before the Nazis invaded.
The land of Israel is precious to the Jewish nation whose children have been longing for, for generations. I cannot imagine myself living anywhere else. I love the land, her people, her colors, her smell, her language, and her culture. I love the Tanach, Rachel’s songs, and the poetess Naomi Shemer. I love to travel to faraway lands and to return to this land, my home, because there is no other place we can live a life of honor and national pride.
My husband, Lt. Col. Shaul Shalev perished in the Yom Kippur war, therefore, Yom Ha’atzmaut for me is a mixture of joy and sadness, longing, and pride. The juxtaposition between Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut is significant and lends a uniqueness to the day. It is a day that we remember our beloved and celebrate our joy in independence.
Amir Dadon (Nov 16th 1975) is an Israeli singer, composer, lyricist, musician and arranger in the music field.
Receiver of "AKUM" music award.
As a child, Amir started playing the guitar and piano while growing up in Beer Sheva. As a young boy his family moved to Eilat and there he joined several local youth bands.
In 1994 he joined the IDF and served in the Givati unit.
Between the years 1992-1994 he began his musical career while dinging with the "059" band.
In 2008 Amir had his major break and was featured in the Idan Raichel's project. On that album Amir performed the song 'She'eriot Shel Ha'Chaim'. The song became a massive hit and climbed to the top of the Israeli charts.
2010 – Amir was part of the Cameri Theater musical 'Restless Night', an Israeli musical based on Shlomo Arzi's songs.
The same year Amir signed with the record company "Helicon", which release his first solo album called "Amir Dadon". The album was produced by Tomer Biran and Gil Smetana.
2011 – Amir Dadon received an "AKUM" award for "Artist to Watch".
2012 – Amir released a new acoustic folk single called 'lo stam' from his second album, that was written and composed by Amir, produced by Tomer Biran and accompanied with Idan Richel on piano.
In 2013 Amir's 2nd album called 'There is No End' came out.
Later that year, Amir joined Idan Raichel once again to release the song 'Chaim Pshutim (Simple Life)’.
The Sussman children in this video were born in Israel after their parents made Aliyah 10 years ago together with their two sons at the time. Four more sons were born since they made Aliyah.
Eliav (7) is in 2nd grade; Azriel (5) is in Mechina; and Yakir (3) says “I don’t do much besides going to gan, battling bad guys and defending my family from lions at the zoo.”
Our parents made Aliyah in 2004 on the 4th Nefesh B’Nefesh flight. Our daddy worked as one of the OU’s representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington and our mommy was an English teacher at a high school in Potomac, MD.
We love, that all the popsicles are kosher. We love living in Eretz Yisrael and getting to go on trips all around the country and we love that we know two languages.
Well, we don’t know anything else. But we love the great barbeques that our parents host every year and that last year our big brother had his bar mitzvah on Yom HaAtzmaut and we got to go on a hike with all of his friends along Derech Avot!
Gilad Shalit is a former Israel Defense Forces soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas in 2006. He was returned to Israel in 2011. Shalit (born August 28, 1986) is the son of Aviva and Noam, brother to Yoel and Hadas, and is both an Israeli and Frenchcitizen. He was born in the northern coastal city of Nahariya but was raised from the age of two in Mitzpe Hila, a small town in the western Galilee.
After graduating with distinction from the science class of Manor Kabri High School, Shalit began his military service at the end of July 2005. Despite having a low medical profile which precluded him from serving in the Infantry Corps, Shalit preferred to serve in a combat unit and followed his elder brother Yoel into the armored corps. On June 25, 2006, Shalit - a corporal at the time - was captured in a cross border raid near the Kerem Shalom crossing to theGaza Strip by Hamas terrorists. The terrorists dug underneath the border from Gaza, emerged on the Israeli side and subsequently sprayed automatic fire and grenades toward Shalit's tank which had been on patrol. Two IDF soldiers (Pavel Slutsker and Chanan Barak) were killed in the attack, three others were wounded and Shalit, wounded as well, was abducted and forced back into Gaza.
Immediately following the attack, the IDF released the following statement:
Today, Sunday, June 25, 2006, the 29th of Sivan, during an infiltration and attack by terrorists to the area around the Kerem Shalom crossing [from Israel to Gaza], an IDF officer and soldier were killed, another soldier was kidnapped and four more were injured.
At 5:40 AM, a squad of terrorists from the Hamas and Popular Resistance Committee organizations, infiltrated into Israeli territory in the area of the Kerem Shalom and Sufa border crossings through a tunnel that was dug from the area of Rafah. The terrorists, under cover of mortar and anti-tank missile fire, attacked a number of military targets, among them a tank. IDF forces immediately responded in force, from which at least two of the terrorists were killed.,
This terror attack was perpetrated with help from Hamas generals and had the go ahead from the Hamas leadership. The IDF subsequently holds the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas as responsible for this dastardly attack and for the fate of the kidnapped soldier.
The IDF subsequently launched Operation Summer Rains, during which infantry units advanced into Gaza in an attempt to secure the release of Shalit. The operation, though, was unsuccessful; within a matter of weeks the Hezbollah abduction of soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regevturned Israel's attention away from Gaza to its northern flank.
The Israeli government initially stated that it would not negotiate for the release of Shalit, but international intervention from Egypt, Germany and the European Union attempted efforts to work out an exchange deal. In October 2009, Hamasreleased a short video clip in which Shalit could be seen holding a daily newspaper and reading a written message that called on Prime MinisterNetanyahu to do everything in his power to free him. In June 2011, theInternational Red Cross called on Hamas to provide further proof that Shalit was still alive but the group balked at the request.
On August 28, 2011 - Shalit's twenty-fifth birthday and sixth in captivity - Shalit's parents released a letter they hoped would reach Gilad. In the letter, the parents wrote, "You must believe that we do not forget you, we do not forget the fact that next Sunday you will be 25 years old, that this is your sixth birthday in captivity, that more than a fifth of your young life has been spent in a dungeon, a Hamas pit."
On September 7, 2011, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice released a statement calling on Hamas to release Shalit: "As I have said repeatedly in the UN Security Council, Hamas must immediately and unconditionally release Gilad Shalit."
On October 11, 2011, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the signing of anexchange deal for the release of Shalit. Assembeled through German mediators and the Egyptian government, the deal stipulated that Israel would release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in a staggered move over the coming months. During Cabinet discussions on the deal, the heads of Israel's security services – Director of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Director of the Mossad Tamir Pardo and the PM's special envoy to the negotiations David Meidan - presented the agreement and its various aspects and expressed their support for it. The Government approved the agreement by a large majority with 26 ministers voting in favor and 3 against.
PM Netanyahu said: "This is a difficult decision to make, but a leadership is examined in moments like these, in its ability to make difficult decisions. I am bringing Gilad Shalit home, to his parents Noam and Aviva, his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Zvi, and the people of Israel."
In the early afternoon of October 18, 2011, Shalit was set free and returned to Israel after 1,940 days in Hamas captivity. Preliminary medical and psychological exams were performed on Shalit at an IDF base in the south of the country and he was deemed healthy and strong enough to meet his parents and travel home. He was also promoted to the rank of sergeant first class.
Frances Greenberg attempted to make Aliyah from Poland in 1937 but due to pre-war bureaucracy was not able to get a polish passport. She fled Poland for Russia in 1939 at the beginning of World War II and is the sole survivor of her immediate family. In 1947 she again attempted to make Aliyah on the ship Exodus but was sent back with the rest of the passengers. She met her husband in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany. They were married in the camp and moved to the US and settled in Pittsburg where they lived for 60 years and raised 2 children. Frances made her first successful trip to Israel in 1955. When Frances finally made Aliyah in 2008 she spent the first few years of her Aliyah helping other Olim, speaking to them about Aliyah and being active in ESRA.
I was dreaming of Aliyah ever since the unsuccessful attempt on the Exodus. I was very active in Zionist movements in Philadelphia and my daughter made Aliyah 44 years ago and fulfilled my dream. In 2008 at the age of eighty eight, after my husband passed away, I made Aliyah and joined my daughter and 3 grandchildren who live in Kfar Saba. I now live in Ra’anana and I feel like I’m finally home.
What do you love about living in Israel?
I love the freedom in this country. I love meeting Jews from all over the world. I love not worrying about anti-Semitism. Israel is the only place to live and Nefesh B’Nefesh does a great job returning Jews to their country.
What is special for you about Yom Ha’atzmaut here?
Yom Ha’atzmaut is the most exciting time of the year but it is also a very emotional time because I lost so much family in the Shoah.
Ariel Shain is in the seventh grade at Amit. His family made Aliyah 10 years ago with Nefesh B'Nefesh. His parents named their two sons after Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu before making Aliyah. By chance, both former Prime Ministers were at the Nefesh B’Nefesh welcome ceremony when the Shains made Aliyah and got to shake hands with their namesakes.
My family moved here when I was three years old. I don’t remember making Aliyah! I didn't know a word of hebrew. I learned pretty quickly and soon spoke better than my older siblings. My parents had always wanted to move to Israel. My mom is originally from here so we have lots of family that I am very close with, which is great.
From what I hear from friends in the States, kids have more freedom here. I go out with friends to parks.
There are lots of parties with friends. I go to the Amphi (amphitheater) in Modiin, where I live, with friends.
The Goldstein family made Aliyah from Riverdale, NY in August 2011. Aviva is an educational consultant concluding her doctorate while working for the Maytiv Center for Positive Psychology at IDC Herzliya. Seth is Vice President and Chief of Staff at Shalem College, Israel’s first liberal arts college. They live in Jerusalem where Elianna (9) and Tehila (7) attend the Chorev Girls’ School and Liba (5) attends a local gan. Nili is the family’s first “Tzabarit” born in Jerusalem in January 2013.
Our Aliyah story starts like the stories of so many like us, with families who taught us, as children, to know and love the Jewish state. As we grew individually, we arrived at a more nuanced understanding of the land and its people. There were frequent visits and pangs in our bellies every time we left, counting the months until our next visit. We imagined what our children might be like if we raised them in Israel. We imagined how we would work, where we would buy groceries, and how we would manage to maintain relationships with those we loved in the US. With angst and pride and tears and fears and hopes, we made Aliyah with NBN in August 2011 and haven’t looked back. It was by far the hardest and best decision we will ever make. Our reality here has far exceeded any expectations we had, and we are enormously grateful to have been born at a time when realizing this dream is so eminently possible.
We love that we live on a street named for a great Tanna of the Mishnah and that our children go to a school on a street named for the date on which the UN voted to partition Mandatory Palestine. We love that our children’s Hebrew fluency is so strong that they understand t'fillah and Tanach with depth and connection. We love that the country moves to the rhythm of the Jewish calendar and that Purim is a month long affair. We love that the food is simply outstanding and the weather is pretty glorious for most of the year too. We love that we are a part of something inspiring -- something bigger than ourselves -- and that we are bequeathing that to our children.
On Yom Ha’atzma’ut the nation puts its cynicism aside and replaces it with an old-fashioned patriotism that one seldom sees in America. It’s the boys selling Israeli flags at every red light, cars decked in blue and white paraphernalia, families and friends barbequing on every square meter of grass. Yom Ha’atzma’ut is special here because we don’t have to take our kids to a local program in order to recognize the day – we experience it simply by breathing the smoke-filled air.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”.
~Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost may never have intended to influence my Aliyah but his poem left a resounding impact upon me. I knew I wanted to live in Israel and also knew that I never wanted to live with regret for not taking that monumental step. Following my college graduation, I decided to take the ‘road less traveled’ and made Aliyah alone. My Aliyah story, however, begins from before my birth.
My maternal grandparents individually came to the conclusion that there was no future for Jews in Germany; my grandfather went on “Hachshara’ in Holland- a program to prepare city slicker German intellectuals for an agricultural, kibbutz life in very difficult conditions- while my grandmother lived with a non Jewish family until her emigration papers were authorized. My paternal grandparents emigrated from Lithuania to South Africa after narrowly escaping the death camps. Both sets of grandparents educated their children on Zionist ideals. In turn my parents instilled in my siblings and me a deep rooted love for Israel, and an understanding that as a nation, we can only be our authentic selves in our own land. While we had a wonderful life in the US, we felt a far more natural sense of belonging in Israel. My brothers all came to Israel to serve as lone soldiers in the IDF and it was no surprise that when I came to Israel after college, I married a man who shared the same passion and commitment to Israel as I did, himself a lone soldier and IDF Officer. Our four children were born in Israel and our third child shall soon be conscripting to the IDF. As I watch my children declare their allegiance to the country, who take for granted what it means to feel so naturally and organically connected to their Judaism and to Israel, I recognize the privilege to be living in this generation and am cognizant that prior generations could only dream of the life we have in Israel today.
Happiness is all about purpose. Israel is ranked the 11th happiest country in the world which is remarkable considering our challenges. Our life in Israel is infused with purpose on a conscious and subconscious level. Making the decision to live in Israel means deciding to live with intention which animates our lives.
I love that my children are completely bi lingual but feel that they can express themselves better in Hebrew. I love that our children’s tae kwon do teams compete internationally, representing Israel and generating national pride. I love that my children speak about what the IDF has given them rather than what they sacrifice. I love that my children are raised in an environment which challenges conventional wisdom and thinking out of the box is applauded. I love working at an organization that helps IDF lone soldiers who come from more than 60 countries around the world, all of whom are committed to defending and strengthening our country. I love that I work in Jerusalem at Nefesh B’Nefesh and enable people to live their Aliyah dream.
My favorite days of the year are Yom HaZikaron- which calibrates our connection to the inherent and terribly painful sacrifices made by so many in order that we may live in Israel safely and is a day which creates unity. Yom Ha’Atzmaut transitions from sadness to joy as we celebrate the vibrancy of this country and where we feel such national pride. It is a day where thousands flock to every forest, hilltop and park to ‘mangal’ (bbq) and to mingle, where the Chidon HaTanach is televised as the Prime Minister congratulates the winners and the President’s Residence is open for the public to come and to visit. It is a day of blue and white flags which line the main roads and fly from car windows. This experience is authentically Israeli and reminds us all ‘Am Yisrael Chai”.
Since making Aliyah in 2006, comedian and educator Benji Lovitt has performed for audiences throughout North America and Israel including Jewish Federations, Hillels, Birthright Israel, and more.
After spending a life-changing year in Israel on Young Judaea Year Course, Benji graduated from the University of Texas at Austin where he was an active member of the Jewish community. After a five-year stint in the high-tech sector, Benji made the rewarding jump to the Jewish professional world and hasn’t looked back since. His experiences working at the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta and with Young Judaea’s Israel programs inspired him to move to Israel, where he has been happily living and making people laugh. Benji has lived in both Tel Aviv (twice) and Jerusalem and will not choose a favorite.
His perspectives on life in Israel have been featured on Israeli television and radio and in publications such as the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post. His annual Yom Ha’atzmaut list of things he loves about Israel has developed a massive following and he works regularly with Jewish organizations to promote Israel. Benji is a member of the ROI Community, a certified trainer for the PresenTense Group, and has spoken at Limmud conferences around the world.
What makes my story a bit different from a lot of young Olim is that I didn’t move here at age 18 or 22 or even in my 20s. I didn’t always know that I was going to make Aliyah. Even though I grew up in Young Judaea having a very strong connection to this place, nobody confused me with David Ben-Gurion. After living in a few places after college, I spent three years in NYC and realized it wasn’t for me. I needed to make a change. I was (and am) single, I didn’t have student loans, it was sort of the perfect storm of things which distinguished me from so many others who dreamed of coming but just didn’t. At the end of the day, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life saying, “what if?” Maybe 99 times out of 100, I wouldn’t have done it. It only took 1. And thank G-d for that one.
Considering I've been writing an annual Yom Haatzmaut list of things I love about Israel for seven years now, I could list at least 400 things. But I love the fraternity of Olim I feel a part of, a group of people with whom I share something so crazy and unique. You could introduce me to a blind septuagenarian Eskimo immigrant and we’d have hours of shared experiences to laugh about.
This is the day I remember why it's all worth it. The parties, the flags, the BBQs, and the palpable joy in the air. This is the one day of the year where I refuse to complain about anything. Israel can do no wrong to me.
Rami Kleinstein is an Israeli singer and composer.
Rami Kleinstein was born in New York. He moved to Israel with his family in 1970. As a child, he studied piano and classical music. In 1988, he married the Israeli singer Rita. They performed together in the 1980s while serving in the military. Kleinstein subsequently composed and produced many of Rita's songs. The couple, now divorced, have two daughters.
In 1986, Rami's first solo album ביום של הפצצה ("On the Day of the Bomb") achieved gold status. In 1997, his sixth album, כל מה שתרצי ("Everything You Want") reached triple platinum status within ten days of release. He was voted "Singer of the Year" in 1995, after his album תפוחים ותמרים ("Apples and Dates") reached triple platinum.
Since 1985, Rami has been composing, arranging and accompanying Rita. He has written music for lyrics by Bob Dylan, Ehud Banai, and Hanoch Levin.
He was a judge in The Voice Israel inaugural season in 2012 on Israeli television.
Nir Barkat was born in 1959 and raised in Jerusalem. His father, Zalman, was a professor of physics at the Hebrew University. He served in the Paratroopers Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces for six years (1977–1983), as well as reserve duty, and reached the rank of Major.
Barkat holds a BA in computer science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Barkat started his career in the hi-tech industry by founding a software company called BRM in 1988, which specialized in antivirus software. Later the company became an incubator venture firm that invested in several companies such as Check Point and Backweb. He later helped found the social investment company IVN.
Barkat entered politics in January 2003 when he founded the party Yerushalayim Tatzli'ah ("Jerusalem Will Succeed") and ran in the Jerusalem mayoral race, gaining 43% of the vote losing to Uri Lupoliansky by double-digits. He became head of the opposition on the city council, until the 2008 election.
In 2007, Barkat took part in the Israeli version of Dragons' Den, the venture-capitalist television program, which consists of entrepreneurs pitching their ideas in order to secure investment from business experts.
Barkat ran again and won the election for mayor of Jerusalem on 11 November 2008 gaining 52% of the votes, defeating his main rival Meir Porush, who won 43% of the votes. Barkat is described as a secular politician, contrasting with both Lupoliansky and Porush, who are described as Haredi.
Barkat ran in the 2013 Jerusalem mayoral elections. He was endorsed by the Labor Party.
Barkat and his wife Beverly have three daughters.
Barkat was named the 43rd most influential Jewish person in 2013.
Jay M. Shultz is the President of the Am Yisrael Foundation and a self-proclaimed “Struggling Philanthropist”, founding multiple non-profit organizations in both the US & Israel. Among them: TLV International – the largest community organization for Olim in Israel; Adopt-a-Safta which pairs young professional Israelis with lonely Holocaust survivors; and ProjecT.A. which will eventually see Anglo olim train and volunteer to become active-duty police in Tel Aviv.
Jay was raised in Fair Lawn, NJ, and graduated with Phi Beta Kappa from Rutgers University in 1998 with a B.A. in art history, focusing on archaeology, which was supplemented at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1997. During school, Jay spent time interning for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Israeli Antiquities Authority, and Albright Institute of Archaeology, including a summer volunteering on Tel Nof Airforce Base with the IDF. Upon graduation, Jay entered Fordham University School of Law, graduating Cum Laude and as the President of the Student Body. After obtaining his J.D. and New York State Bar admittance in 2001, he worked in entertainment and intellectual property litigation. In addition to his involvement with multiple entrepreneurial ventures in the fields of healthcare and real estate, Jay is a representative for the World Jewish Congress on Jewish-Christian relations and at the Muslim-Jewish Conference, a diplomat for the Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a Nahum Goldmann Fellow, and a member of the ROI Community. Jay moved up to Israel in 2006 from New York City and currently resides in Tel Aviv. He plays piano and is an avid collector of art, antiques, Judaica, and antiquities.
I came here 8 years ago from New Jersey. I made Aliyah because I believe there is no future for the Jewish people in America. There has never been a better or easier time in history to move to and live in Israel. Why pray to G-d for 2000 years to win the lottery and never cash in the ticket? This is the only home we should have, the only place we should be. This place needs us and we need to be here. When I came here 8 years ago there wasn’t a community for young Olim. I started TLV International so that young Olim have somewhere off the boat to call home. We are their family.
Knowing my family has a future here. I love Tel Aviv. It’s a great place for single life. Tel Aviv is where the jobs are. People need to be thinking about living in Eretz hakodesh (the land of Israel), not just ir hakodesh (Jeruslaem).
Being with family together, b’simcha (in happiness). Eat a lot of meat, drink a lot of beer. We are planning a massive young Olim bbq. There is a real focus on community.
David Gursrein is an Israeli painter and sculptor. He began as a figurative painter and illustrator of children books and was recipient of the Israel Museum Prize for illustration. Gerstein's post-pop art style is characterized by bold colored, multilayered cutout steel. His outdoor sculpture "Momentum" is Singapore's tallest public sculpture.
David was born in 1944 in Jerusalem to parents who emigrated from Poland. The family moved to Ramat Gan when he was four years old. David showed artistic talent from an early age. David's teacher, Batya Uziel, encouraged him to study painting. At the age of thirteen he was sent to a camp for the arts in Jerusalem, which he attended for several summers in a row. In high school, he took classes at the Beit Zvi Art Center in Ramat Gan with Rina Balktovsky Arnon. During his military service in the paratroopers he was stationed at Ein Gev for one year, where he painted a series of oils of fishing docks, boats and kibbutz landscape. While there, he met the artist Aharon Giladi, who encouraged him to pursue art. Upon completion of his military service, David applied to the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, where he met Avraham Ofek, who had a marked influence on Gerstein's style.
During the Second Lebanon War, Officer Asael Lubotzky (now aged 31) serving in the Golani Infantry Brigade, was admitted to Rambam Health Care Campus after being seriously wounded from a direct anti-tank missile at the site of what became known as the Battle of Bint Jbeil.
Lubotzky arrived at Rambam Hospital suffering from severe burns and injuries to both his legs. In a few dramatic moments Lubotzky met the doctors who would change his life forever. Upon arriving at the hospital, Lubotzky was rushed into the operating room with a goal that was against all odds: to save Lubotzky’s legs. Lubotzky underwent a lengthy rehabilitation that included over 20 orthopedic and plastic surgeries at Rambam.
“Not all doctors stayed optimistic about the injuries to my legs,” says Lubotzky in admiration, “One of them was so hopeful that he could save my leg and that one day, he’d be there to witness the ‘breaking of the glass’ on my wedding day.” These words are what kept Lubotzky going, throughout the long and often painful rehabilitation period. Two years later, Asael Lubotzky stood under the chuppah and vigorously performed ‘breaking of the glass’ with his right foot. Today, he is the proud father of a daughter and a son.
Lubotzky’s injuries led him to notable accomplishments. His story was published by Yedioth Books in “From the Wilderness and Lebanon,” which recounts his personal experiences from the Second Lebanon War. Within a very short time, almost from the moment it was printed, it became a best seller in Israel. Seven years ago, Lubotzky was accepted by the Hadassah Medical School in Ein Karem and today works as a doctor at Shaare Zedek Jerusalem. “A great part of this decision to become a doctor was inspired by the exemplary model set by the doctors who treated me,” recalls Lubotzky.
My Grandfather Iser Lubotzky, was a warrior in the Vilna Ghetto with the FPO. He left the ghetto with Abba Kobner and fought as a partisan in the forest for a year when he was injured in a battle. The bullet wound in his right leg turned septic and his comrades thought there was no way to save his life. They even dug a hole to bury him. But there was a partisan acting as a nurse who decided to do everything to save him and his leg. She treated it with leaves and somehow stole antibiotics from the Nazis. Both survived and separately made Aliyah. My grandfather went on to fight the Arabs and the British as part of his service as an officer in Etzel and then served in Golani fighting in the War of Independence.
60 years later, I myself was injured as part of the Golani unit in the second Lebanon war. When I transferred to the orthopedic rehabilitation center at Tel Hashomer hospital, I met Dr. Ziv’ner who recognized my name. He asked me if I am related to Iser Lubotzky, and I answered yes of course, he’s my grandfather. Dr. Ziv’ner asked to meet him. The next time my grandfather came to visit me in the hospital, Dr. Ziv’ner joined us and listened as my grandfather told stories of the Shoah. He told the story that I knew well about the partisan who was acting as a nurse saving his leg and his life, and then dropped the big news: he told Dr. Ziv’ner that she was none other than Channa or Anka Osgood who was Dr. Ziv’ner’s mother! That was an unforgettable moment.
My grandmother is also a survivor from Poland and made illegal Aliyah from a displaced persons camp in Cypress in 1951. My mother’s parents made Aliyah from England in 1956. My grandmother gave birth right after landed they landed, calling my mother Yardena after flying over and seeing the beauty of Jordan River.
The people, the nation, the beautiful views, the human and geographical connection between our heritage and the present, and the amazing union between people from all over the world. The people of the Bible walked here. I grew up in the Gush and as I walk the land I love that my forefathers walked here. And of course all my friends and family live here.
It comes after Memorial Day, a day of communion with Israel's fallen soldiers, including the Ten Martyrs Battalion 51 Second Lebanon War, my comrades. They are the "silver platter” that our state was founded and thrives on, and Yom H’atzmaut strengthens my sense of belonging and pride in our country, along with the commitment to continue the legacy of those who died in the battle for rebirth and the existence of the State of Israel.
Noam Gershony is the winner of Israel's first gold medal of the 2012 London Paralympics.
Noam served in the IDF as a pilot of a Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter. During the 2006 Lebanon War his helicopter collided with another, killing his co-pilot and leaving Gershony injured with fractures in all four limbs. After completing medical rehabilitation, Noam joined the Beit Halochem sport center in Tel Aviv where he began playing wheelchair tennis and surfing. In addition to his sports career, Gershony volunteers at "Makom Acher", a hostel for at-risk youth in Tel Aviv, and teaches mathematics to teenagers.
Well, I am second generation Israeli, born and raised but my mother’s side made Aliyah from Afghanistan. My Father’s parents came from Poland before WWII.
This is my home and I would never dream of leaving. My home, my family, my culture. I love the people and my life in Israel.
It’s the birthday of the State of Israel! It’s the happiest day of the year. I can usually be found at parties with friends.
Josh Hoffman grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from San Diego State University in 2012 with a journalism degree, and started a digital marketing business shortly thereafter. “I brought my online business with me to Israel when I came on Birthright and then made Aliyah, and I just launched my Israeli company Hofbart, which specializes in social media branding for companies that need both Hebrew and English.”
I came to Israel for my first time in January 2013 on Taglit-Birthright Israel. In recent years I hadn't identified much with the Jewish culture and religion. But when I arrived in Israel, I was blindsided by what eventually became a life- and perspective-changing experience. In short, I fell in love with Israel -- the people, the culture, the history. And I knew that the 10 days on Taglit-Birthright Israel weren't nearly enough to experience what Israel has to offer, so I extended my trip for three months. After Taglit-Birthright Israel, I really started to examine my life and what I wanted from it. I talked to several locals and some of my Israeli family that I had met for the first time, and researched the Aliyah process. Finally, one month after my Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, I decided to stay in Israel and Aliyah from here.
Everything, really. The people, the culture, the food, the fact that everyone has a different way of being Jewish and yet we're all united as one Jewish state. I love that Saturdays are the designated day-off. I love the communal feeling, the feeling that you're a part of something. I love that Israel has so much to offer landscape-wise even though it's a small country. I love meeting people from around the world, yet being able to connect with them because we're all Jewish.
I think people really appreciate Israeli independence here, probably because Israel is just 66 years old. Many people, like me, are new immigrants, or children of new immigrants, and many of us really love Israel and what it stands for, so we're very appreciative of it, and Yom Ha'atzmaut is a reminder of the trials and tribulations Israel has endured and thus become.
Geulah Cohen was born in Tel Aviv during the Mandate era. She studied at the Levinsky Teachers Seminary, and earned a master's degree in Jewish Studies, Philosophy, Literature and Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In 1942 she joined the Irgun, and moved to Lehi the following year. A radio announcer for the group, she was arrested by the British authorities in 1946. She was imprisoned in Bethlehem, but escaped from jail in 1947. She was also editor of the Lehi newspaper Youth Front. After Israeli independence in 1948, she contributed to Sulam, a monthly magazine published by former Lehi leader Israel Eldad.
Cohen married a former Lehi comrade, Emanuel Hanegbi.
From 1961–73, she wrote for the Israeli newspaper Maariv and served on its editorial board.
In 1972 Cohen joined Menachem Begin's Herut party, then part of the Gahal alliance, and was elected to the Knesset the following year, by which time Gahal had become Likud. She was re-elected in 1977.
Dissatisfied with Begin signing the Camp David Treaty and in particular the return of Sinai to Egypt as a land-for-peace deal, in 1979 Cohen and Moshe Shamir left Likud to found a new right-wing party Banai, later renamed Tehiya-Bnai, and then settling on Tehiya. The new party was strongly affiliated with the extra-parliamentary movement of Gush Emunim, and included prominent members of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza such as Hanan Porat and Elyakim Haetzni.
Cohen retained her seat in the 1981 elections and despite their previous differences, Tehiya joined Begin's coalition. She retained her seat elections in 1984 and 1988, and in June 1990, following a coalition crisis, was appointed to the cabinet as Deputy Minister of Science and Technology. Cohen lost her seat in the 1992 elections in which Tehiya failed to win a seat. In the same year she rejoined Likud, for whom her son Tzachi Hanegbi had become a Knesset member. Cohen remains active in right-wing politics, voicing her opposition to the disengagement plan in 2005.
Aynaw moved to Israel with her grandparents when she was twelve. After graduating high school, Aynaw served as a Lieutenant in the Military Police Corps of the Israel Defense Forces. Aynaw is also the first black Miss Israel winner. She is the first Ethiopian-born Jew to win the contest.
I love Israel because it is a small country that has everything- it has varied demographics, multiculturalism, desert, snow, and two different seas.
What is special about Independence Day this year is that it’s my 11th independence day in the country and it's very exciting as a new immigrant.
Ruth Zuman was born in Lithuania and survived the Shoah hiding in the woods in farmers’ houses. After the war she went to Chicago, met her husband, had two children and then moved to Mexico because of her husband’s health. In Mexico they bore two more sons. Living in Mexico wasn’t easy and they sent their children to learn in Jewish schools in Chicago. Her husband passed away 20 years ago but they stayed in Mexico.
I have always wanted to make Aliyah and finally fulfilled my dream two years ago, in 2012. I have three married grandchildren who live in Israel and 11 of my 17 great grandchildren live here. I now live in Jerusalem in assisted living. It’s a great place and I am very busy with shiurim, socializing and exercising. I love visiting with my family.
Just being alive in Israel. All my life I wanted to live here.
I spend it celebrating with my grandchildren. I love being with my grandchildren and great grandchildren in Israel.
Natalie Silverlieb is an actress and singer, certified health coach, Community Development Masters student at The Hebrew University, and proud Zionist. Natalie grew up in the small town of Montville, NJ and had one love: performing. Natalie always envisioned being on Broadway, and her dream became a reality when she was chosen as an original cast member in Disney’s Broadway musical, Tarzan.
In the midst of my career, a new dream was born when I came to Israel with Birthright. I had grown up with little connection to Judaism and Jewish life. I had come to Israel without a sense of Jewish identity, and left with my second love: Israel and the Jewish people. Just as with realizing my Broadway dream and pounding the pavement to get the role, I pursued Israel. Inspired by the story of the “Start-up Nation,” and motivated by the ideology of tikkun olam I came back, multiple times, leading Birthright trips, and participating on the Masa Israel Journey program Career Israel where I worked with refugee youth at the Bialik Rogozin School, all the while rehearsing for my greatest role yet: Olah Hadasha. As an actress I have played many parts, but my role as an Israeli citizen has proved the most inspiring and rewarding. Since making Aliyah in November 2011 I have had the privilege of paying it forward, working with many of the organizations which have helped shape my Jewish Identity and inspire my love of Israel, such as Masa Israel Journey, and as the Community Director of Career Israel. I am currently pursuing an MA in Community Development through the “Glocal” program at The Hebrew University, combining my professional expertise and eclectic background to employ the performing arts as a tool for empowering disadvantaged communities. I am a member of the ROI community and volunteer as a coordinator with the Adopt-a-Safta project. I live in Tel Aviv with my Israeli fiancé Alex.
Living in Israel has given me the opportunity to be a part of something greater than myself; to have a role in the story of the self determination of a people, my people, whose history and connection to this land spans thousands of years. I am also just simply in love with the lifestyle of living in Tel Aviv; the beach, the weather, all of the amenities of living in a city, but with that laid back beach town vibe (well at least in comparison to years of living in NYC!). I also love Israeli people and their zest for life! They are passionate, determined, innovative, extremely resilient and genuinely love life and live it to the fullest! Living in Israel has inspired me to adopt these same qualities, motivating me to live a life of meaning and purpose and to work with determination in achieving my goals. Every day I feel lucky to be able to live in Israel, and truly honored to have even a small role in contributing to the future of the Jewish people and the strengthening of this extraordinary country.
I’ll never forget my very first time celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel. Parties, music, and huge celebrations filled the streets, and everywhere I looked there was an Israeli flag waving proudly. I also proudly waved my Israeli flag as If I were a sabra. The 4th of July BBQs and Macy’s one day sales I experienced “celebrating” Independence Day in the US couldn't hold a candle to the impact of celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel. The immense pride, honor and patriotism I felt was overwhelming, surprising even. This feeling has only increased with my Aliyah and the deepening of my connection to Israel. The experience of mourning and commemorating those who have lost their lives in war and terrorist attacks on Yom Ha’zikaron, immediately followed by a day of rejoicing and celebrating Israel’s independence on Yom Ha’tzamaut is truly what makes this day so meaningful and so special. The succession of these two days reminds us that our independence is not without loss and sacrifice. This recognition pushes us to persevere, knowing that as much as we have endured we have that much more to achieve. The linking of these two days and the juxtaposition of the emotional lows and highs is truly symbolic of the essence of what it means to be Israeli, and why this tiny but remarkable country has flourished in its short 66 years.
Yael Arad is an Israeli judoka and the first Israeli to win an Olympic medal. She is widely recognized as one of Israel's most successful athletes and is credited with bringing judo into the athletic mainstream.
In 2005, she was voted the 103rd-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet. Yael was born in Tel Aviv and began taking judo classes at the age of eight. Within half a year she ranked second in Israel in her weight class.
My father was a Holocaust survivor and made Aliyah from Budapest. My mother was born in Israel to the Reines family. Rabbi Yaakov Reines founded the first Torah and Madah (science) yeshiva, combining Jewish and secular studies. He hoped to establish a system of schools in Israel which would turn the land into the center of Torah learning in the Jewish world. Reines worked hard for the World Zionist Organization soon after its inception, and under his guidance and influence, the First Congress of the Religious Zionists was called in Vilna in 1902. It was here that the name Mizrachi, a conglomeration of the words Mercaz Ruchani ('Spiritual Center') was chosen. The Mizrachi party envisioned itself as the spiritual center of the Zionist organization and its goal was to make Israel the spiritual center of Judaism. On one hand, they strove to heighten the awareness among religious Jews towards the possibility of Aliyah and on the other hand, they desired to influence the non-religious Zionists by creating an atmosphere of tolerance and equality between the two factions. Many streets and two towns in Israel are named after Yaakov Reines.
As a Zionist I believe we should live in our own country. I love the Israeli people, the fact that we are a young country and we prove our abilities around the world.
To me, every single day is a combined celebration, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Hashoah. We wake up every day and remember the past and think about the future. We are always thinking how we can be prepared. Yom Ha’atzmaut is one day we think about the power of our nation. Yom Ha’atzmaut is a symbol of a very strong nation facing countries who don’t like us and a symbol of how good we can be, our abilities to overcome all obstacles.
A native of Northern New Jersey, Alyssa currently lives in Modiin with her husband and two sons. Shortly after making Aliyah in 2008, Alyssa began working for Virtual Assistant Israel and currently partners in the management of this growing company. What began as a small start-up of 2 employees and 1 client has grown to 40+ employees supporting clients across the globe. Alyssa takes pride in the opportunity to employ talented English speakers living in Israel by providing them with interesting, challenging work on a part time, virtual basis. This allows many Olim to bring in a respectable income while still having time to raise their families. When not at her computer, Alyssa enjoys DIY home improvement projects, learning new Hebrew vocabulary words, and spending time outdoors with her children.
I was raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, a hub of Modern Orthodoxy and Israel activism. Israel was always a place that was celebrated and loved, though I did not think seriously about Aliyah until spending the year following high school studying at Midreshet Harova in Jerusalem. From time spent living in the Old City of Jerusalem, adventures exploring the country, and the experience of spending Shabbatot with friends and family, the idea of Aliyah and raising a family in Israel began to take shape.
My first week at Cornell University I met a handsome junior, Eli, who told me about his time in the Israeli army and plans to make Aliyah the day he graduated. (I secretly hoped he would wait for me, luckily, he did!) Eli and I started dating my freshman year, and he graduated when I was a sophomore. I completed my degree in 3.5 years and graduated in December of 2007. We married in February 2008, and made Aliyah three weeks later. We have since lived in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and now call Modiin home. Our two sons, Eitan and Ezra, were born along the way – the first children from either side of the family to be born in Israel in many generations.
I love the sense of community, camaraderie and friendship I feel wherever I go (especially among Olim). I love living in a society in which the most important value is family – if you do not have family in Israel, someone will adopt you quite quickly! I love watching my children grow up in Israel – the way the Hebrew flows from their mouths, their knowledge, at such a young age, of Tanach and Jewish History. I love that at age 4 and 2, my children feel proud to be Jewish and that a soldier in uniform is their greatest hero.
For me, the most special part about Yom Ha’atzmuat is the moment of transition right before Yom Ha’atzmaut begins. The time when the country switches from the mourning and sorrow of Yom HaZikaron to the joyous celebration that is Yom Ha’atzmaut. I equate it to the blowing of the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur – there is introspection, there is sadness, and then there is joyous release. We have lived another year and will enjoy every moment of it. We are proud of who we are and where we stand, we are lucky to be here and we should celebrate!
Hilary Faverman is a published author contributing to The Jerusalem Post, Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, and several blogs including her own. She's also a busy mom with 3 small kids while running a 40-employee company (Virtual Assistant Israel) from her couch. A passionate home chef dedicated to butter, Hilary has been known to down a glass of her favorite wine (or three) while she cooks.
I am not your run of the mill immigrant. Israel was never in my sights, my destiny, my plan or my heart. I stayed as far as I could away from the raucous AIPAC gatherings on my midwestern college campus. Of course, as an American Jew, I was raised to love Israel - we all were. It was presented as a haven, a necessary place to run to if and when things got bad. Not a place to voluntarily raise a family - simply a place to send a check between morning Rosh Hashanah services and sitting down for brisket.
Then I fell in love with an Israeli - not any Israeli, mind you, but an Israeli who promised me that he had no interest in ever returning to live in Israel. We got married twice - first in an elaborate traditional Jerusalem religious ceremony, and afterwards by Elvis in Vegas. Really. Eventually, we began talking about having children. The bombshell: my wonderful husband says to me: "I think it's time to go home." "Home" meant returning to Israel. I was shocked.
I spent some time being angry - I felt betrayed. Ultimately, I was faced with a decision - which was more important to me - my husband or my address? My marriage or my culture? My love or my language?
I acquiesced and we prepared to move to Jerusalem. For a year. On a trial basis. A month later, I was pregnant (there's something in the water here, I swear) and later that year, found myself home with a fussy newborn in a new place with no friends, no ability to converse, no career and no clue. Jerusalem didn’t quite jive with our lifestyle and we made a major decision to relocate our growing family to a moshav 30 minutes away, in the mountains.
Upon our move, the local English speaking community invited us to a pot luck barbecue on a Friday night! Here were families like mine, and they were proudly loving and embracing Israel. Prospering in Israel. Passionate about securing not only Israel's future, but building and fostering an Israel where we could all feel comfortable.
I jog in the woods near my house three days each week. A few days ago, while jamming to Beyonce and avoiding a mud puddle, I came upon a herd of gazelle. I stopped short to catch my breath and drink in the scene. Here I was, panting, and something occurred to me: mother of three, home owner, manager of a successful company, happily married, exercising on a sunny Wednesday morning in January. It's paradise, and I belong here.
The people here - especially those who have consciously uprooted their comfortable American lives to raise families in Israel - are genuine. I discovered that the immigrants here are so dedicated to this land and securing its future as a Jewish State that they care infinitely less about things that challenged me when I lived in the States. No one notices whether I'm wearing this year's fashion, or any fashion at all. When I look around in July, not every woman on the bus has her toes painted. When my girlfriend asks me if I want to join her for dinner at a local steak joint, and my answer is "money's pretty tight this month, how about I come by for coffee instead?" I am greeted with no judgment and simply acceptance. Nobody bothers trying to be or present as something they are not. I did not feel this sense of camaraderie, community, clarity and higher purpose in the States - not in the midwest where I grew up, not in California, New York, DC, Chicago or Boston. Yes, I lived in all of those places.
An official day off work to barbeque? What's not to love?
Noah Miller is originally from Burlington Vermont, USA. He played college Lacrosse at the University of Vermont and McGill University. He has been a member of the Israeli National Lacrosse team since 2012 and has officially been living in Israel since May of 2013. Noah is the Director of Development and Social Responsibility at the Israel Lacrosse Association and runs community engagement programs throughout the country, using the sport of Lacrosse to engage and energize the youth of marginalized cities.
I made Aliyah in December of 2013 after living in Israel since May of 2013. I originally only intended to stay for the summer, but I felt so compelled to stay after experiencing growing the sport I love in Israel. Playing for the Israeli National Lacrosse team has given me the opportunity to travel the world, representing the country I love in the sport I love. There is no greater honor than wearing the Israel uniform and playing for the state of Israel, the youth of the country, and the Jewish people.
Growing up in northern Vermont, I did not know many Jews. I love living in Israel and experiencing the diversity of the Jewish people, which is comprised of people from all over the world connected through a common bond. I love being able to contribute to the physical, emotional, and physical development of Israeli children and being able to be a role model for the aspiring youth players of the country as all share this passion for the sport of lacrosse.
Yom Ha'atzmaut is special for me because it commemorates the strength and resilience of the Jewish people, that we were able to build a thriving nation after years of persecution and exile. It shows the fortitude of the Jewish spirit and I am proud to be contributing to the growth and success of this country.
Matt Cherry was born and raised in Bryn Mawr, PA right outside Philadelphia. A decorated athlete, Matt earned All-State and All-American honors as a stand out Lacrosse player at Radnor High School. Matt moved on to Dickinson College where he captained the team for two years and was on the Dean’s list all four years. Leading the Dickinson Red Devils to four NCAA appearances, Matt earned First Team All American honors in 2013.
Matt made Aliyah following graduation and joined the Israeli national Lacrosse team and their preparation for the 2014 World Lacrosse Championships. Along with training regularly, Matt lives in Ashkelon and works for the Israel Lacrosse Association as a director in their development department.
Matt has a strong Jewish identity and his committed to his and all contribution to the State of Israel.
Dedicated to service, Matt will join the IDF in August.
Last spring, my plans for graduation from Dickinson College were set. Having accepted a job in Philadelphia, I was also happy to be coming home to start my post-college career. All of this left me with several weeks free, which enabled me to join a ten-day Birthright trip to Israel, departing in June 2013. Since I had been to Israel the year before, I also arranged to extend my visit for a couple weeks and volunteer for the Israel Lacrosse Association. Rather than returning home, I informed my employer that I would not be taking the job I had been offered. Instead, I was hired by the Israel Lacrosse Association and have been in Israel ever since.
Becoming an Israeli citizen was the last thing on my mind after college. I had just finished my playing career, received 1st team All-American honors, and had no intention to pick up a lacrosse stick ever again. I was very much content with life after lacrosse and joining the working force. When I was presented with the opportunity to represent Israel in the world championships and to start the sport here on a grassroots level and I couldn't pass up the offer - it was a once and a lifetime opportunity.
In short - I don't know if I 'drank the Birthright cool-aid' or found a deeper sense of meaning here – but I am proud to call myself Israeli and continue a long, prosperous, and successful life in the Jewish state.
I love the ability to work with such an eclectic group of people every day. Living in Ashkelon, I have the unique ability to contribute to the physical development of Israeli's diverse youth - kids with families from all over the world. The common bond of Judaism is shared amongst the youth and being a role model for them contributes to my continued love for the Jewish state.
Yom Ha’atzmaut is special to me because it resembles the perseverance of the Jewish people and the state of Israel. I am proud to contribute to Israel's growth and celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut!
Atara Solow works at Nefesh B’Nefesh as the Senior Manager of Aliyah Services.
“I grew up in Cherry Hill NJ, and made Aliyah at the age of 14 with my family. I served in sherut leumi (National Service), working with juvenile delinquents. As a bat sherut I was sent as a shlicha to L.A. to work in Bnei Akiva both as a camper and senior staff. After completing a degree in social work, I continue to live the dream working at Nefesh B’Nefesh supporting Olim first as a regional coordinator, then as director of the Social Services Department, and currently as the Senior Manager of Aliyah Services.” Atara enjoys living in Modin with her husband and two beautiful children.
I love feeling connected to the country’s history, the sense of meaning and the gained independence I acquired when I moved here, which I now instill in my children as I raise them in Israel. I love the finer things in life here: the shuk, bountiful kosher gourmet foods, nature, wine, coffee, being close to historical Jerusalem and the high-tech nation, the beach and fun night life.
I love the symbolism of the transition between a day of honoring our fallen soldiers, and the celebration of our country’s independence. Yom Ha’atzmaut is not a vague memorial day here since I am connected to several families of fallen soldiers. It is a day where we celebrate the strength of the country and nation by spending time with family and friends enjoying the land we live in.
Benji Davis was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended USY, Camp Ramah and Solomon Schechter Day School. He was college recruited to play tennis but tore a ligament during his gap year in Israel. Benji took a semester off in Junior year to spend time in Sderot volunteering in the media center. He has been working at Nefesh B’Nefesh for the past two years since finishing the army where he created a subsector in the IDF draft office to aid in the enlistment and placement of new immigrants and lone soldiers.
I made Aliyah after graduation for, as a good friend used to say, “The hummus, Goldstar, and the girls.”
I love that family feeling you get. There’s no sense of being a stranger here. You take the good with the bad: people drop everything to help you invite you into their homes, as well as give you their opinions on everything from who to date and what milk to buy.
I feel very fortunate that I have many more years to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel. My kids will have the opportunity to openly celebrate life here in Israel.
I moved around as a kid, but my upbringing was mainly split between time living in Richmond, VA and Teaneck, NJ. I grew up in a music-loving, Israel-inspired, Ba’alei Teshuva home with my awesome family. The majority of my early years were spent learning and playing music, discovering and connecting with Judaism, and trying not to drive my parents too crazy. By the time I decided to move to Israel at age 20, I had played with numerous music projects, taught private lessons, and graduated SAE Institute of Technology as a certified audio technician.
After moving to Israel through Nefesh B’Nefesh in 2005, I worked hard to find a footing in the local music scene and succeeded in playing, performing, and recording with many phenomenal artists around the country. In 2007, I was drafted into the IDF at age 22 and completed two years of compulsory service as a combat soldier. I met my future wife while serving and we married within weeks of my release from the army five years ago. I currently divide my time between working at Kahena Digital Marketing during the day and co-managing and playing music with my band G-Nome Project at night. My wife and I live in Efrat with our two children and we couldn’t be happier to continue building our lives here in Israel.
Any time my parents had funds to put toward a family vacation, our destination was always Israel. We lived here for two whole summers, when I was seven and again when I was nine. Those visits infused me with a hands-on love of the Land and planted the seeds for my later move. As an adolescent, I spent 6 weeks travelling around the country on a summer program and later spent a year and half studying at Bar Ilan University during an extended gap year. While sharing a Shabbat meal in NJ with my friend Zechariah, he announced his plans to make Aliyah the following summer. I responded, “You know what? I think I’ll go with you.” So I contacted Nefesh B’Nefesh, geared up for the move, played my last gigs in NYC, packed a few duffle bags, and boarded the plane 10 months later.
Aside from proposing to my wife, moving to Israel is the greatest decision I have ever made. And the story doesn’t end there! My parents boarded an NBN flight this past October (2013) and now live a few blocks away! Dreams do come true.
From my soul to my bones, I’m connected to this land. Living in Israel is the realest thing. I love my daughter speaking Hebrew and pronouncing her reish better than I can ever hope to. I love the way my wife shines when she’s outlined by the Mediterranean sunset. I love the passion on the streets and how people here fearlessly connect with, scream at, and hug each other. I love witnessing the unprecedented rejuvenation of a previously desolate land. I love being so close to the roots of my People and looking out onto the landscapes where our forefathers took their cattle to graze. I love it all!
But none of these are the REAL reason that I love living in Israel. What I love most about living in Israel is simply beyond words. So I play music and hope it translates.
Yom Ha’atzmaut is so special here because it’s so alive and so real! We’re front and center where it all happened. It’s really so huge, it’s hard for me to grasp. Yom Ha’atzmaut is the day when it’s impossible for anyone to take for granted the fact that the Jewish people have a homeland. For those who live here in Israel, the day exemplifies the reason why we made the decision to pack our bags and get on that plane. Being here and seeing the nation celebrate together is very moving as I contemplate the opportunity we have to live the eternal dream of previous generations that never got a chance to enter the land. For two thousand years we never stopped dreaming. Yom Ha’atzmaut is the celebration of that dream becoming a reality. I also love sitting back and witnessing just how much food native Israelis manage to fire up on those cheap little 30 shekel heap o’ tin mangals (portable grill).
I split my time between lobbying in the Knesset during the day, and playing with my band G-Nome Project at night. We live in Neve Daniel.
Growing up in a Zionist home in America, Aliyah always existed as a lofty, amorphous ideal that people should be lauded for realizing, but not necessarily as an operative plan. After my year in Israel at Bar Ilan, however, I developed a concrete vision of Aliyah as an action that I should take in the near future. After a few short months at Binghamton University, and mostly based on gut feeling, I decided to make Aliyah ASAP. I took two pilot trips during that year, and developed two seven-year plans for my life in Israel. Within two weeks of stepping off the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight, I had already tossed all plans. In retrospect, my first eight years in Israel look quite orderly, though they were more or less planned on a whim within months of my Aliyah. I studied in Yeshivat Machon Meir for about 18 months, served in the army (Netzach Yehuda Battalion) for almost two years, and then returned to Machon Meir for another 18 months of study. After that five-year period, I got married to Bracha Boim from Har Nof, Jerusalem, and began my Hebrew Linguistics studies at Bar Ilan. While at Bar Ilan, I studied in Kollel and freelanced as a translator. After working for a party’s English language campaign, I began working for a small corporate lobbying firm.
Though there are many, many reasons why I love living in Israel, I'll focus on two.
One, living here matters. It matters not only in the metaphysical, spiritual, and religious way, but also in the very practical way. Israel is a tiny country. Every individual who lives here has an impact on the country. I can personally influence Israel, as a country, in ways that I never would have dreamed possible in America. Tying that back to the metaphysical, spiritual, and religious, each individuals' impact in Israel has, in my humble opinion, cosmic ramifications that we can barely fathom.
Two, Israel guides me. Things fall into place here in ways that I can't even describe. The most ridiculous "coincidences" can have such a wild, profound impact. I credit the land that "ארץ אשר יהוה אלהיך דרש אתה תמיד עיני יהוה אלהיך בה מרשית השנה ועד אחרית שנה" "the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year"
I thoroughly enjoy the dichotomy of Yom HaAtzma'ut. On the one hand, we're celebrating "כוחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה" "My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this success" I made Aliyah. I joined the army. I defended the Land of Israel. (or alternatively, the collective we, the collective nation of Israel - we did all those things). While on the other hand, I say (twice, with a Beracha): "זה היום עשה יהוה נגילה ונשמחה בו" "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" We revel in our achievements as a nation, but (some of us) don't forget to give credit where credit is due. Which is actually the very next verse: "וזכרת את יהוה אלהיך כי הוא הנתן לך כח לעשות חיל" "But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is He that giveth thee power to succeed"
As Executive VP for Nefesh B’Nefesh, Eric works with the dedicated staff of the organization, to ensure the efficient running of its enterprises, while helping thousands of Olim settle successfully into their new lives in Israel. He well understands the needs of Olim, being an Oleh himself from Teaneck, New Jersey. As a child, he moved to Israel with his family and resettled in Jerusalem, where he resides today.
With strong will to contribute to Israel in an impactful way, he served in a number of positions in the IDF: Combat soldier in a tactical warfare unit; Officers Courses – graduating Outstanding Cadet in Officers Preparatory Course, Outstanding Cadet in Officers Training School and Exemplary Cadet in Advanced Officers Course; Operations Officer; Liaison to the Palestinian Authority and (in Res.) neighboring countries. Following the Second Lebanon War, he returned to active service, as Staff Director of the General Corps’ commander, where he took part in the structuring and administration of five divisions. He currently serves as a Major (in Res.) in military intelligence.
Professionally, he graduated double major Accounting and Law – Honors Track at Hebrew University. During his studies, he taught various courses at law and business faculties on the topics of economics, tax and introduction to law. After completing his degrees, he interned at PricewaterhouseCoopers, in parallel to advanced studies at the business faculty and passing all Israel CPA exams.
For the past five years, he partakes in managing the staff and operational budget of Nefesh B’Nefesh, while overseeing the relationship with governmental and private partners of the organization. In this capacity, he has been involved in designing and implementing the structuring of the organization and defining the vision for its growth and efficient running. In addition, he was involved in developing flagship programs and forging strategic partnerships, which further contributed to the Olim, and leveraged the impact of the organization.
I made Aliyah as a child with my family, from Teaneck New Jersey to Jerusalem.
The people, the air, the sense of belonging, the sense of purpose, the joined destiny, fate and faith, the national freedom and pride, the food.
The culmination and height of senses and emotions around all the stated above.
Eliezer Divash was born and raised in Ethiopia and moved to Israel via South Africa. He lived in Israel between 2002-2005 and then went to America for a 2 week visit and ended up staying for 7 ½ years. Eliezer met and married his wife in New York and made Aliyah with his wife and children in 2013 with Nefesh B’Nefesh. He now works at Nefesh B’Nefesh.
I made Aliyah to live in the promised land. I believe G-d gave land of Israel to the Jewish people, not temporarily and this is the only place to live. Israel provides me the opportunity to deepen my study of Torah. The land of Israel is water and the Jewish people are fish. A fish can’t live out of water.
I have no words to explain my love for this country. There is no one happier than I. I am living the dream life. It is all Hashem’s doing.
We left Egypt 3,326 years ago. Avraham was born 1,948 years after Creation, Yitzhak was born 2,048 after Creation, we came out Israel 2,448 years after, and we were given the land back in 1948. Avraham was given this land and no one else. History repeats itself. Yom Ha’atzmaut is like a birthday of Israel, again. Am Yisrael Hai v’Kayam forever and ever.
Joseph Gitler is the Founder and Chairman of Leket Israel, the national food bank which has made a profound impact on the State of Israel. Prior to the opening of the food bank, Joseph worked in the family software business and noticed that there was millions of pounds of food being discarded or destroyed annually by farmers, manufacturers, caterers, etc. Leket Israel collects these foods and distributes them to the needy. Through Gitler's vision of not letting people in Israel go to sleep hungry, Leket Israel provides food for over 140,000 people weekly.
My wife, child, and I moved to Israel two weeks before the intifada in 2000 and then made guided Aliyah with Nefesh B’Nefesh in 2004. We now have 5 children.
I love the freedom accorded my children. For kids, there is a less pressurized atmosphere in schools. Here, when I contribute to greater society I am contributing to my nation. I am on the board of the local hospital, not just the kids’ school, shul and mikveh. There is a stronger pull to be part of society.
We have always done a little bit of everything: family, friends, school, religious, political. Typically, we will go to the beach and then to a family thing like a barbecue. I love the US but July 4th wasn’t a big deal. Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel is huge.
Marvin Casey is known as the Jewish-African-American who brought flash mob dancing to Israel. A performer by profession, Marvin grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He choreographed a flash mob that became a major success and is head choreographer of a hip-hop troupe.
I made Aliyah when I was 25, 7 years ago. I didn’t know anyone here, nor did I know the language or the culture. I had just converted in 2003, so it was after about 4 years of actually being Jewish.
They had to nudge me off the plane. I was scared to get off. I didn’t realize what I had taken upon myself as the plane landed. I was literally on my own. I was very frightened. I lived in a merkaz klita called Bet Canada in Jerusalem, so I thought it would be a little like camp, but I soon realized I had to pull myself together and get what I needed to done like opening bank accounts and going to the post office by myself.
It was the first time leaving home, leaving the nest and having to start my life over again, not knowing the language or culture. It was very intimidating but also very liberating. I really did it! I got here, I stuck it out and overcame the obstacles set in front of me and I made it! I had no idea what I was going to do. I knew I wanted to do something with dance. It was like a rebirth. I went through ulpan, I moved a lot. Then I met my wife, I got married and now I have a wife, 2 kids and a mortgage! I still wonder how this happened, and then remember..Oh yeah, I got on a plane to Israel!
There were definitely hard times, times it could have been easier, but with perseverance I am still here. I realize now I have been afforded lots of opportunities I wouldn’t have had in the US. Because of the smaller population here, my options are wide open.
The opportunities I wouldn’t have had in America. I did the choreography for Rent in Israel when it came off Broadway, produced viral flash mobs, and acted in TV shows.
That everyone has their own customs and tradition. Some go every year to Dead Sea or Eilat or have a cookout on beach in Tel Aviv. There is a spirit of happiness and release and pride.
I was born in Haifa but my family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee when I was very young. After finishing university in the States I decided to move to Israel and join the army, with the ultimate goal of making a life for myself in Israel. I served in the paratroopers unit and was joined in Israel by the rest of my family shortly after I finished my service.
I love many things about living in Israel; My best friends and close family live here, the food is richer, the culture feels like home, and most of the people have something interesting to share. I also love the opportunity to play American football in Israel. I've been involved with the Israel Football League for roughly 5 years and although I've come heart-wrenchingly close to a national championship in years past, this year my team finally put all our hard work together and won the Championship of Israel in Israel Bowl 7.
Independence Day in Israel is a special time. I love the shared sense of community and joy, the picnics with friends and the national displays showcasing our sense of pride in returning to the Jewish homeland after 2,000 years of exile. In the same week as our joy, we also remember the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate price so that could be here today, as well as the victims of the Shoah who sadly proved the need for the existence of a Jewish homeland. As part of a family with deep ties to Israel and Judaism, I'm proud to live in our nation today.
The Kraft Family Israel Football League recently finished it's 7th season. With 11 teams all over the country, from the Galilee to Beersheva, the IFL is a growing force in Israeli sports. http://israel-football.co.il/
I work as a Real Estate agent for Re/Max by day, and play American football in the IFL (Israel Footbal League) by night.
I moved to Israel with my family at age 21. I studied Hebrew for 7 months at an ulpan in Tel Aviv, and then went off to the army for two years, serving in a search and rescue unit.
Like most ex-pats, I did not think I would get the chance to play the sport ever again. Israel has given me and many others that experience again. Growing up in Texas, football was a big part of the culture, so I was very happy to find such a big community of Americans and Israelis who love the sport.
I love the culture in Israel of "working to live" rather than "living to work." Here in Tel Aviv, everyone is out on the streets, at cafés or restaurants. People are always going out, doesn’t matter what day or hour it is!
Independence Day is a very special day for me. The festivities are similar to those in the States. But they are also different, because one really feels a sense of unity with the country and its people. One feels pride at everything Israel has achieved.
Moving to Israel wasn’t an easy decision. Nothing in this country comes easy. But Israel has so much to offer, and if you’re persistent, you will find your place. It was the best decision of my life.
The Kraft Family Israel Football League recently finished it's 7th season. With 11 teams all over the country, from the Galilee to Beersheva, the IFL is a growing force in Israeli sports. http://israel-football.co.il/
I was born in San Diego and was in 1989 and my family and myself (which include two younger brothers and both parents) in 1995 we made Aliya to Israel. We lived here until 2002, when my father received a job offer in New Jersey. I graduated high school like every regular American but decided to take a different path. I told my parents I wanted to join the the military, which they were happy to hear and they decided to move back to Israel with me. I served three full years in the Sayeret Moran unit as a commander, and have been in the reserves for almost four years.
The Kraft Family Israel Football League recently finished it's 7th season. With 11 teams all over the country, from the Galilee to Beersheva, the IFL is a growing force in Israeli sports. http://israel-football.co.il/
Sagan Zavelo works in business development at an Israeli high tech Startup company (a very successful interesting Startup) called BlazeMeter. As a professional hobby he manages the Israeli National Football team and develops Israeli Football to compete in tournaments around the world.
I made Aliyah from Kansas, US by myself in December of 2011. Making Aliyah alone was particularly difficult for me, not having a family or a sense of insecurity, , uncertain of what would happen with life in Israel.
I love living in Israel because the experience in Israel is so unique, the people define themselves by living the life they love and want to live. In Israel people learn to take advantage of what presents itself every day. As a characteristic that everyone learns from Israel, you learn a lot about yourself because Israel is such an amazingly unique place in the world. I say thank you to Israel for so much.
I celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut because it is not a day of mourning the people who lost their life but it is celebrating people. It’s a special day.
Randi Weiss came to Israel from Vancouver, Canada, where she worked with community youth outreach programs as well as rehabilitation sciences. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences and plans to shape her career around non-profit work.
Randi first joined Save a Child’s Heart as a full-time volunteer and in May 2012 began working full time as the Young Leadership Director. Her job at SACH involves coordinating volunteers and youth leadership events both in Israel and abroad.
I first came over two years ago to visit family and volunteer at Save a Child’s Heart. I had been planning just to visit and volunteer for 2 months. I started getting really involved with SACH and I had the opportunity to see and get to know Israel and also be involved in an amazing humanitarian project. The opportunity came up to be full time staff member, so I quit my job back in Vancouver and stayed in Israel on a work visa. After six months I decided to stay and I made guided Aliyah. I think I learned to live the dream after getting to know Israel. I was offered the career and the lifestyle I wanted. There’s never a dull moment living here. Even though living in Israel was culture shock enough, through SACH I work with kids from over 48 countries so I am exposed to many different cultures. I am getting used to the lines at the post office and the holidays in Israel.
I love the appreciation for family and friends and the ‘life is short’ mentality. I enjoy working with people from many different countries, especially at Wolfson Hospital, seeing how much Israelis embrace these cultures and offer help.
I can relate to Yom Hashoah, and I am respectful and understanding of Yom Zikaron. Yom Ha’atzmaut is for spending time and celebrating with family and friends. The last couple of years my parents visited during this time and they had the opportunity to get the clearest picture you can get of Israel’s mentality.
I came to Israel in the first place because of the project and what it exemplifies, and stayed when I realized that that is what Israel is about- helping to heal the world.
Adam Weiner was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. He grew up in a conservative Jewish household, attended Jewish summer camp, and was active in Jewish youth groups. After attending the University of Arizona he graduated in 2011 with a degree in Political Science. A few months after graduation he made Aliyah and drafted into the 890th Airborne Division of the Israeli Paratroopers. He was released from the army in November, 2013 and is now living and working in Jerusalem.
Joining the Israeli army was always something that I wanted to do. My parents asked me to finish my degree in the US before enlisting, so that is what I did. Immediately after graduating from University, I packed my bags and make Aliyah. I wasn't sure what my plans were going to be after the army- but during my service I decided that Israel is where I wanted to live and raise a family.
What I love most about living in Israel is the sense of togetherness and pride. In the United States, it is so easy to live in a small bubble which consists of family, work, and friends. Here in Israel, every decision, every law, every military action, every vote affects each and every one of its citizens...on a personal level. Here you must look beyond your bubble, and by looking past your personal bubble, you create community, you create a nation. It was once explained to me this way...When speaking about his brother’s family in the states, a friend stated "My brother and his family have a huge pot of soup (wealth, large house, etc.)...It can feed a ton of people, but is lacking any flavor or substance." He continued "My family and I have a VERY small pot of soup, but it is the most delicious soup you will ever taste!"
When I was in the army, I felt that there is a special feeling attached to serving in the army on Yom HaAztmaut. Every day I felt blessed to have the ability to serve Israel, but on Yom HaAtzmaut it meant even more. It is a reminder of all the hard work that went in to the creation of the state, a celebration of a nation that continues to thrive in a place where it is not welcomed, and a promise to continue the fight for what is ours. I was honored to be a part of that fight and to celebrate with all of Am Yisrael on this special day!
Benjamin Netanyahu was born in 1949 in Tel Aviv, and grew up in Jerusalem. During his high school years, his family moved to the United States, where his father Prof. Ben-Zion Netanyahu R.I.P was offered an academic post.
Upon his return to Israel in 1967, he was drafted to the Israeli Army, and served 5 years in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. He took part in several military operations, including the famed hostage rescue aboard the hijacked "Sabena" flight in 1972. During the same year he received a decoration for command of an operation from the late IDF chief-of-staff Motta Gur. He participated in the Yom Kippur war as a reserve officer and was promoted to the rank of captain.
Following his army service, Netanyahu enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he matriculated with a BS in Architecture. He remained at MIT for his graduate studies where he earned an MBA from the Sloan School of Management. As a student, he also pursued studies in political science both at MIT and at neighboring Harvard.
Between 1976-1982, Netanyahu worked in the private sector, for the Boston Consulting Group, and later as a member of senior management for RIM Industries Ltd.
Both in 1979 and 1984, Netanyahu organized international conferences on anti-terrorism, which emphasized the need to oppose terror organizations and the regimes that supported them. Former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz wrote that Netanyahu's public activism and authorship of books on terrorism had a profound effect on the formation of American foreign policy in response to international terrorism.
Netanyahu was appointed Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. in 1982. In 1984 he was appointed the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, where he served for four years. During this period, he was known for his determined and tenacious support of the Israeli effort to influence international public opinion. He successfully led an effort to permit public access to the UN Nazi war criminals archive, which up to that time had been classified.
Upon his return to Israel in 1988, Netanyahu was elected to the Knesset as a Likud MK, and served as Deputy Foreign Minister. During the 1991 Gulf War, Mr. Netanyahu was a prominent representative of Israel in the international arena. Later that year, he was a senior member of the Israeli delegation to the Madrid peace conference. He was also a member of the first American-Israeli Committee for Strategic Cooperation.
In 1993, Netanyahu was elected to lead the Likud party, replacing former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and to serve as Leader of the Opposition. In 1996, he was elected Prime Minister of Israel.
During his tenure as Prime Minister, Netanyahu pursued a firm policy against terror, while working to propel the peace process. He and his government worked hard to reach balanced agreements with the Palestinians based on the principle of Reciprocity. By the end of his 3-year term, the level of terrorism in Israel had declined drastically.
On the economic front, Netanyahu liberalized the foreign-currency exchange, accelerated the privatization of government-held companies, and reduced the deficit. During his time in office, foreign investment in the Israeli High-Tech industry reached record levels of billions of dollars a year.
After leaving office in 1999, Netanyahu served as a consultant for Israeli High-Tech companies. He was a highly sought-after speaker in various forums around the world and maintained a rigorous lecturing schedule.
Netanyahu returned to public life in 2002 first as Foreign Minister and in 2003 as Finance Minister in the Sharon Government. In this position, he encouraged growth by reducing the public sector and strengthening private enterprise. His policy included reducing government spending, lowering taxes, limiting government handouts, and eliminating monopolies, renewing privatization and pension reform. The U.S. government as well as international financial institutions such as credit rating companies and the IMF lauded these actions. As a result, the decline in the Israeli economy was reversed, unemployment was reduced, and growth restored. The Israeli economy, having shrunk by 1% in the years 2001 and 2002, grew by 4.2% in 2004.
Netanyahu has authored a number of books that have been published in Hebrew, English, and at times also Russian, French, Arabic, Japanese, and other languages:
- "Letters to Yoni" (1978) editor and co-author with his brother Iddo
- "International Terrorism: Challenge and Response" (1979), editor
- "Terrorism: How the West Can Win" (1987), editor
- "A Place Among the Nations" (1993)
- "Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic And International Terrorism" (1995)
Benjamin Netanyahu is married to Sarah, a psychologist by profession, now working in the Jerusalem Psychological Services.
Mr. Netanyahu has 3 children. The Netanyahu family resides in Jerusalem.
Caroline works for the Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldier Program assisting Lone Soldiers from France.
Caroline Fitouchi was born and raised in France by Zionistic parents who brought her to Israel often on visits. She and a friend made Aliyah in 2005 at the age of 17 to finish high school at Havat Hanoar haZioni in Jerusalem. Caroline has an aunt and an uncle and cousins in Israel. Caroline finished her bagrut (graduated high school) and entered the IDF as a lone soldier in a border police unit. She then completed her BA in Government Diplomacy from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. During her studies she worked at the Jewish Agency with adults making Aliyah. Caroline has come full circle working in the Lone Soldier Program at Nefesh B’Nefesh (http://lsp.nbn.org.il/). She lives in Tel Aviv and is also currently working toward a certificate in Public Relations.
There is a magic here. Once you get to know Israel you can’t leave. I love the solidarity here and the beautiful weather. I found a replacement family of friends here. I love to live a life of freedom, free of anti-Semitism which is impossible in Europe.
It is special to have a day to celebrate Israel as the Jewish homeland which provided me the opportunity to build my life here. There is a national pride here that doesn’t exist in France. It is special to be a part of that.
I celebrate with barbecues and parties with friends. I myself was a chayelet bodedet so it is closing a circle that I can now plan events for the chayalim bodedim on Yom Ha’atzamut and give them a way to celebrate.
Tal Brody is a winner of the Israel’s most prestigious Israel Prize. Brody lead the US Basketball team to a gold medal in the 1965 Maccabiah Games, and is a former captain of the Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball team who brought the team its first European championship win. Tal Brody, nicknamed Mr. Basketball, is an American-Israeli former basketball player, and current Goodwill Ambassador of Israel and lives in Israel. Brody was drafted # 12 in the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft, but chose to pass up an NBA career to instead play basketball in Israel. He played on national basketball teams of both the United States and Israel, and served in the armies of both countries.
The Maccabiah Games brought me to Israel in 1965 to play basketball for the US team. This was the turning point of my life. That trip changed my goals and direction- seeing the country, experiencing the culture, spiritual life, daily life, meeting people; Jews - who came from all over the world to participate in the Maccabiah Games. When Maccabi Tel Aviv asked me to come help take the team to another level, take the country out of recession, and boost morale, I jumped at the chance. They asked me to come for a year, put smiles on the faces of Israel, make people proud of their country. The challenge was appealing, so I came for a year and stayed for 47 years, minus 2 years when I was drafted to the US army between 1968-1970. When I finished my US army service, I made Aliyah and served in the IDF when I was 25.
The vibrant social, cultural, and family life. Being a part of Israel’s and the world’s achievements. I am proud of participating in life in Israel since the Six Day War. I am impressed with the strength and belief of the people. This country is not perfect, yet achieves so much. Look all around- Israel helps save lives all over the world.
Every year we celebrate the continuation of a 4,000 year destiny. The Jewish people have given their lives to keep the Jewish nation going strong. We are here to keep this nation alive. It’s great to be a part of it and all Jews are welcome to join us.
Debra Spero Applebaum was born and raised in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. In 1977, Debra married Rabbi Dr David Applebaum- a student of Rabbi Ahron Soloveitchik and a specialist in Emergency Medicine and Disaster Medicine. Debra studies Biblical Studies at MATAN and volunteers as a docent at the Israel, Rockefeller, and Bible Museums. In Sept 2003, Dr. Applebaum and his daughter, Naava, were killed in a terrorist attack at Café Hillel, the night before Naava’s wedding.
In 1981, the Applebaums made Aliyah to Kiryat Shmuel, Jerusalem , where they raised their 2 sons and 4 daughters. Dr. Applebaum contributed to the discourse in issues of Halacha and Medicine and revolutionized Emergency Care in Israel while heading the MDA Mobile Intensive Care Units, as director of the Shaarei Zedek ER and as founder and director of TEREM Urgent Care Centers.
Witnessing and playing an active role in the Redemptive process.
Enjoying a family BBQ after watching the International Youth Bible Contest on the T.V……and feeling sorry for all our Jewish brethren in the Diaspora who just don't get it.
Sarah Hindman works as the Director of Marketing at The Israel Experience.
I went to a Christian boarding school and all my life and my friends were Christian. Being Jewish, I always wished I could be Christian like my friends. One summer break during college, I had some time on my hands and decided to take the free Birthright trip to Israel. It was the first time I was around so many Jews at once. I was overwhelmed by how good it felt here, being a part of a nation. I saw Jews as a part of a culture --not just a religion -- which appealed to me. I was intrigued by the people, by the style of life that seemed so simple despite such complications. I felt a connection for the first time to who I really was, not who I was trying to be. When the trip was over, I craved to come back. This time I wanted to do something meaningful and see a different side of Israel. I signed up for Career Israel, an internship program of Israel Experience, and went to Sderot to work at the Sderot Media Center as a video journalist. Sderot life was by no means easy, and I was intrigued by the people who wanted to continue living in a place so dangerous and scary. Yet there they were, going to work, going to the supermarket - living like any other Israeli. They showed me the ultimate pride of the country, that despite the issues and hardships that surrounded them daily - they persisted. To me, that was as Jewish - as Israeli - as it got. I, too, was proud. Proud of who I was and proud of where I came from. I finally found my identity in Israel.
That summer, I also met my now husband and all signs pointed to making Aliyah. We now live in Jerusalem and I now work for Israel Experience, helping others come to Israel to make the same connection I found.
I love the sense of how important family life is here. Every week an effort is made by everyone, secular and religious, to plan time together on Shabbat, and find a way to connect.
In addition, I never forget how previous generations struggled to get here, yet my trip was so simple. In a way, I live here in honor of them and what they went through.
Yom Ha’atzmaut is my moment to reflect on that intense pride I gained on Birthright and Career Israel. We made it, this is our nation, our country. As we all dance in the streets, I remember this day in history, I feel like I was there. There is a huge sense of accomplishment and everyone is in it together.
Rabbi Yehoshua Fass is Co-Founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh and has served as the organization’s Executive Director since 2002. After receiving his rabbinic ordination and degrees in biology and education from Yeshiva University, Rabbi Fass assumed the position of Associate Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue of Florida and served as a member of the Beit Din of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council.
After an Israeli relative of Rabbi Fass' was murdered in March 2001 by a terrorist bombing, he was compelled to embark on a personal mission, which in the following years made a significant impact on the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Together with Tony Gelbart, he founded Nefesh B'Nefesh, which revolutionized western Aliyah by removing the financial, professional and logistical obstacles that prevent many individuals from actualizing their dreams. The Organization has revamped the Aliyah process making the idea of moving to Israel a more realistic option for many.
Since its establishment in 2002, the organization has assisted over 30,000 Western Olim and has maintained a retention rate of 97%. Nefesh B’Nefesh Olim contribute greatly to the social, economic and demographic welfare of Israeli society by serving in the IDF, settling in Israel’s cities and periphery, and boosting economic growth, while infusing the country with idealistic enthusiasm and optimism.
Rabbi Fass lives in Beit Shemesh with his wife and seven children, including four native born Israelis
Shimon Peres - public servant, parliamentarian and the eighth Prime Minister of the State of Israel - was elected by the Knesset on June 13, 2007 to serve as the Ninth President of Israel, and took the oath of office on July 15.
Peres was born in Byelorussia in 1923 and immigrated to Palestine with his family at the age of eleven. He grew up in Tel Aviv and attended the agricultural high school at Ben Shemen. Peres spent several years in Kibbutz Geva and Kibbutz Alumot, of which he was one of the founders, and in 1943 was elected Secretary of the Labor-Zionist youth movement. Shimon Peres has been closely associated with the development of defense capabilities. In the late forties he joined the Haganah and was assigned responsibility for manpower and arms. During and after the War of Independence , he served as head of the naval services, and later headed the defense ministry's delegation to the US. In 1952 he joined the Ministry of Defense and a year later - at the age of 29 - was appointed Director-General, a position he held until 1959.
In 1959 Peres was elected a Member of Knesset and served until his election as President in June 2007. From 1959 to 1965 he served as Deputy Minister of Defense. Among his achievements were the establishment of the military and aviation industries and the promotion of strategic ties with France - a "special relationship" that culminated in strategic cooperation during the 1956
Sinai Campaign, which he masterminded. He was also responsible for Israel's nuclear program. Shimon Peres distinguished himself as a political figure in internal politics as well. In 1965 he left the ruling Mapai party together with Ben-Gurion and became Secretary-General of Rafi; three years later, he was instrumental in reuniting these labor factions. In 1969 Peres was appointed Minister of Immigrants Absorption; from 1970 to 1974 he served as Minister of Transportation and Communications; and during 1974 he was Minister of Information. For three years following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Peres again played a central role in Israel's security as Minister of Defense. He revitalized and strengthened the IDF and played an important role in the disengagement negotiations that led to the 1975 Interim Agreement with Egypt. He was behind the 1976 Entebbe rescue operation and authored the "Good Fence" concept, promoting positive relations with residents of southern Lebanon.
Peres briefly served as Acting Prime Minister following the resignation of Prime Minister Rabin in 1977. Following the defeat of the Labor party in the 1977 general elections - after thirty years of political hegemony - Shimon Peres was elected party chairman, a post he held until 1992. During this period he was also elected Vice President of the Socialist International. Shimon Peres served two non-consecutive terms as Prime Minister. His first tenure was from 1984 to 1986 in the National Unity government, based on a rotation arrangement with Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir. From 1986 to 1988, he served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and from November 1988 until the dissolution of the National Unity Government in 1990 - as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. He focused his energies on the failing economy and on the complex situation resulting from the 1982 war in Lebanon. He succeeded in enlisting the support of the Histadrut for the difficult steps needed to reduce the annual inflation rate from 400% to 16%. Peres was also instrumental in the withdrawal of troops from Lebanon and the establishment of a narrow security zone in southern Lebanon.
After the return to power of the Labor party as a result of the 1992 elections, Shimon Peres was once again appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. He initiated and conducted the negotiations that led to the signing of the Declaration of Principles with the PLO in September 1993 - which won him the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, together with Rabin and Arafat. Further negotiations with the Palestinians brought about Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and some areas of Judea and Samaria and the establishment of limited Palestinian autonomy, as decided in the Interim Agreement . In October 1994, the Treaty of Peace with Jordan was signed. Peres subsequently strove to promote relations with additional Arab countries in North Africa and the Persian Gulf - part of his vision of a "New Middle East."
Shimon Peres' second term as Prime Minister came in the wake of theassassination of Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995. The Labor Party chose Peres as Rabin's successor, and the Knesset confirmed the decision with a vote of confidence, supported by both coalition and opposition members. Peres served as Prime Minister for seven months, until the general elections held in May 1996. During this trying period, Peres strove to maintain the momentum in the peace process, despite a wave of terrorist attacks by Palestinian suicide bombers against Israeli civilians. Shimon Peres continued to serve as chairman of the Labor Party for a year after the party's election defeat. In June 1997, former Chief-of-Staff and Labor Member of Knesset Ehud Barak was elected chairman of the Labor Party.
In October 1997 Shimon Peres created the the Peres Center for Peacewith the aim of advancing Arab-Israeli joint ventures. Peres served as Minister of Regional Cooperation from July 1999 until March 2001, and in March 2001 was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister in the National Unity government headed by Ariel Sharon, serving until October 2002 when he resigned together with the other Labor ministers. Peres served as Vice Premier to Ariel Sharon from January-November 2005, when Labor resigned from the government.
Prior to the elections to the 17th Knesset, Peres left the Labor Party to join the newly founded Kadima. He served as Vice Premier, Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galillee from May 2006 until June 2007.
In October 1997 Peres created the the Peres Center for Peace with the aim of advancing Arab-Israeli joint ventures. Shimon Peres has authored the following books:
In Between Hatred and Neighborhood (Hebrew - 1961)
The Next Phase (1965)
David’s Sling (1970)
Tomorrow Is Now (1978)
Go With The Men - 7 Portraits (1979)
La Force de Vaincre (French - 1981)
Entebbe Diary (1991)
The New Middle East (1993)
Reading Diary - Letter to Authors (1994)
Battling For Peace (1995)
For the Future of Israel (1997)
New Genesis (1998)
Le Voyage Imaginaire (1998)
A Time for War, A Time for Peace
He is widowed, and has three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.