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Our Journey Home

Our Journey Home

Having attained our personal, professional, and spiritual goals in Toronto, we decided to realize the dream that our ancestors prayed for but could not fulfill: living in Israel.

by Esther Ohayon

We moved to Israel 7 months ago and simply love it!

Both my husband, Nissim, and I visited Israel in our youth and from then on we wished, yearned, and dreamed of making it our home forever. We chose Israel because we believe that the continuity of the Jewish people is ultimately dependent upon building Eretz Yisrael, our homeland. Even during these tumultuous times, we know there is a bright future here for us.

Israel is not just a spiritual haven, or a safe haven for Jews, it is also a beautiful country with rolling hills, immense beauty, all kinds of weather, and of course, an incredible history.

Having attained our personal, professional, and spiritual goals in Toronto, we decided to realize the dream that our ancestors prayed for but could not fulfill: Aliyah, ascending to Israel.

When some of our close friends and two of our rabbis moved here three years ago, they were -- and still are -- our role models. They wrote to us and described their life as being challenging but full of meaning. They paved the path for us and made it easier for us to follow suit. We yearned to express the ultimate solidarity with the Jewish people and move to our homeland.

We made up our minds and it seemed like the Almighty cleared the path for us to come. My husband started a business in Toronto representing Israeli companies in North America. He acquired influential clients so we came to Israel with a job. We obtained a great apartment from our friends who had just bought a house in Ramat Beit Shemesh. All the obstacles to aliyah were melting away. Still, one of the toughest was leaving our families behind.

On September 10th, my mother, who lives in New York, finally confessed that "her heart was breaking because we were leaving." The next day she witnessed the two planes hitting the World Trade Center in her own backyard. It took me hours to finally get through to her. She screamed with a voice full of emotion and clarity, "Go! Get on that plane and make me proud. I'll miss you like crazy but it is time for you to go home!"

Everything was falling into place but money was tight. We were concerned about the amount of time it would take to raise the capital to relocate. By the time the amount was saved, our son might be too old to integrate easily into Israeli society. When we heard about the Nefesh B’Nefesh Foundation, whose goal was to assist North American Jews in making aliyah, we immediately applied. We couldn't believe our good fortune that such an organization existed.

Nefesh B'Nefesh helps families meet relocation costs through financial grants, and assists with the families’ klita (absorption) once they arrive in Israel. Along with the foundation’s dynamic founder and executive director, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, its professional staff includes a Director of Absorption, Director of Employment, and Director of Social Services (a psychologist).

In the summer of 2002, Nefesh B'Nefesh assisted 150 families from 22 states and Canada, resulting in the largest North American group aliyah in history. This year, 1,000 people are expected to make aliyah with the assistance of Nefesh B’Nefesh.

Saying goodbye to our families and friends was difficult, but we really felt we were going forward for the better, rather than leaving a lifetime behind. The actual journey to Israel, which is usually long and arduous, was one of the most exhilarating experiences of our lives. Both in the airport and on the flight, the excitement was palpable. Religious, non-religious, young and old, we were all Jews sharing in a common goal: choosing to come home. We broke through all the stereotypes, all the barriers, and we all experienced a real aliyah together.

Once on the ground, we had to face our fears of leaving all that was familiar and comfortable. We did it, with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh. Their influence here in Israel helped to overcome many bureaucratic hurdles with greater ease. We also found that the people we encountered in the various government offices and banks were happy to help us when we mentioned Nefesh B'Nefesh.

Our historic flight gave Israelis hope for a bright and prosperous future. Seeing North American Jews voluntarily leaving the “comforts” of America to come and stand shoulder to shoulder with them in building this country gave them a feeling of validation, solidarity and hope.

We hope you will join us and the many thousands of North American Jews making aliyah this year and in the years to come!

May 3, 2003

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) KristineCarmeli, October 6, 2006 1:08 PM

need good positive stories for my highschool children that we are planning ro move from united states to israel as a family-they don't speak hebrew-want success stories of transition

trying to hook up with someone online to help me get information for the school and positive feedback of moving to israel with my 5 children.

(5) Shira Levin, May 17, 2003 12:00 AM

Aliyah going home to Eretz Yisrael dream of a lifetime

G-d bless you for making Aliyah as it is
His will that you went home. The major
obstacle so far to my making Aliyah is
credit card debt. I am saving money to
return to Israel and have alittle over a
$100 saved up thus far. I hope with
G-d's help to soon join you.

(4) aaron fox, May 8, 2003 12:00 AM

kol hakavod

You guys did the right thing times ten. I hope just as the members of your community were your heros of inspiration to make this tough decision, I hope you will inpire many others to do the same. Best of luck and hang in there no matter what, it's really worth it.

(3) Fran Jakubowicz, May 8, 2003 12:00 AM

May you and your family continue to be an inspiration t o others.

May your positive attitude and outlook sustain you during all the normal ups and downs of Aliyah and may you and your family continue to be an inspiration to others to live in this beautiful and holy land.

(2) betti miner, May 6, 2003 12:00 AM


I know about NefeshB'Nefesh and I have yet to send in the application. My husband is not quite ready to make the transition to moving to Israel. He wants to go but is "not quite ready". I am ready at a moment's notice to leave and make aliyah with him. Thank you Esther for a delightful story of your aliyah.

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