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October 6, 2015 / 23 Tishri, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘nefesh b’nefesh’

Garin Tzabar: Helping Lone Soldiers Feel At Home In Israel

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

These lone soldiers, hailing from countries including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Turkey and Azerbaijan arrived in Israel without their families to join the Israel Defense Force and help build the Jewish nation.  ’Garin’ means seed in Hebrew but can also refer to a group of people who collectively immigrated to Israel and ‘tzabar’ refers to the ‘sabra’ cactus fruit which is prickly on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside, a euphemism to describe Israelis.

The Garin Tzabar program is in charge of bringing these lone soldiers to a kibbutz or Israeli city, providing them with an adopted family, a Garin community that supports them throughout their army service and Hebrew classes to assist their immersion into the IDF.  Several months from now the new recruits will begin to serve in the Israeli Army.  The Garin Tzabar  ensures lone soldiers receive support and attention on their birthdays, during holidays, Shabbat, and their days off .

The State of Israel officially welcomed this year’s Garin Tzabar participants during a special ceremony held at Tel Aviv University. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  gave a video greeting praising these young Jewish men and women and  numerous other government officials attended the event.

MK Sofa Landver, who addressed the group, stated, “We are here to receive the immigrants and the soldiers in our country, the most wonderful country in the world. It’s you who have come to serve and defend Israel. You will change the world.” A representative of Nefesh B’Nefesh added, “It’s not just a plane ride, it’s the destination and that’s Israel. Enjoy your new life.”

Netta Gelb, a new Garin Tzabar participant, was born in the Israeli city of Netanya and has spent the past 15 years growing up in Canada. Although she has Israeli relatives,  she is leaving behind her parents and siblings.  Gelb expressed the excitement many Garin members felt when she said, “I have been really looking forward to this for a long time.”

Michael Kosky, another Garin Tzabar participant, added, “We have come here to play our chapter in Jewish history. I am part of this program. Good luck to every one here.”  A lone soldier already serving in the IDF named Ariella, who hails from an Argentine family and grew up in both America and Israel told the audience that she holds dear the “values of loyalty to the state, its people, and the Tzabar members” and said to the new recruits “If you live together, you will learn a lot.”

Eitan Press contributed to this report.

Visit United with Israel.

Israel to Welcome Young Immigrants Joining the IDF

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

This week, 125 young men and women from North America will board a Nefesh B’Nefesh group flight to Israel, where they will live their dream by joining the Israel Defense Forces.  According to Yael Katsman, director of marketing and communications at Nefesh B’Nefesh, almost all of these young Jewish men and women are “lone soldiers,” without familial support in Israel, who will join the already 2,800 others like them in the IDF.

Nefesh B’Nefesh  helps Lone Soldiers through “streamlining the drafting process, sending lone soldiers care packages, providing adoptive families for whenever a soldier is off-duty, giving financial assistance, or calling lone soldiers” to check up on them, said Katsman. She explained, “The most difficult thing [for lone soldiers] is the lack of network and family support. That is a big obstacle, as well as the language barrier.” For this reason Nefesh B’Nefesh  gives lone soldiers extra assistance, becoming their family away from home.

According to Nefesh B’Nefesh, “For these idealistic soldiers, the draft process is an intense experience that often involves challenges of adapting to military service and to an independent life-style in Israel. The Lone Soldier Program provides a comprehensive solution that offers guidance, support, and care for all olim (new immigrant) soldiers at all stages of the process: prior to Aliyah, the pre-draft, throughout military service and after release from the IDF, when adjusting to civilian life in Israel.”

Additionally, 34 of these 125 Lone Soldiers are  moving to kibbutzim in peripheral areas of the country in order to strengthen Israel’s security. One such lone soldier, 18-year-old Michaela Yaakobovitch,  is moving Kibbutz Beit Zera in Northern Israel.

According to Yaakobovitch, “I am looking forward to it. It’s really beautiful there. This is something that I decided I wanted to do. Most of my friends went to college, yet I wanted to make a difference by joining the army. I’m really excited to start something new. I went to Israel every summer, yet now I am going to be part of Israeli society. I will have a new family on my program and meet new people and have new adventures. I’m going to miss my family and friends, yet they will visit.” Katsman feels a “strong sense of pride to see these young men and women volunteering. It shows how strong the State of Israel is. There are young idealists who are coming over to Israel out of choice, trying to make the country a better place. It’s very inspirational.”

Despite the difficulties associated with life as a Lone Soldier, Katsman emphasizes that these 125 young men and women are “very excited, very Zionistic, and very pumped. The energy they bring to the flight is incredible. They are very confident. They decided this path on their own over the last few years.” For many of these olim, the thrill of boarding a Nefesh B’Nefesh group flight en route to their IDF service is a moving experience that will last a lifetime.

Eitan Press contributed to this report.

Visit United with Israel.

Gavi’s Aliyah is a Success – with Help from eTeacherHebrew

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Gavi Hanssen (45) made Aliya with his wife (42) and four children (12, 10, 8, and 4) from Denver Colorado in July 2012. When he met his wife, she told him that she wanted to make Aliya and he was open to the idea. Gavi said, “I don’t necessarily believe that all Jews should live in Israel, but we wanted to be part of Israel, part of the history of Jews coming back to their land after 2000 years in the Diaspora. You live only once, and I wanted to experience it in my life.”

When Gavi’s wife’s job ended 18 months ago, they decided to take the opportunity to start something new in Israel. After the decision was made, everything fell into place:Gavi, his wife and the two older children started studying Hebrew with eTeacher; a house was found in a small community in the Galilee– exactly what the family was looking for.

Nefesh B’Nefesh helped them in their preparation by providing accurate information to create a realistic view of what was awaiting them in the Promised Land. After arriving in Israel,Nefesh B’Nefesh “offered more help than we could even take advantage of,” Gavi said with a smile.


In the States, Gavi was a consultant with non-profit organizations and his wife worked as a teacher. In Israel, his wife easily found a job as an English teacher and Gavi started looking for a job only two months ago after helping the kids settle in. He goes for regular interviews and feels confident that he will find a job soon.

Children’s education

Gavi said that a major motivator for moving to Israel was the children’s education. It was important for him and his wife to give their children a good Jewish education, so they enrolled them in an expensive Jewish day school in Denver. In Israel, they feel, their children get a good Jewish education almost for free.


Gavi feels happy with choosing Eshchar as their new home in Israel. Though they had never visited the house or neighborhood before making Aliya, as they took their first steps into their new home, neighbors were welcoming them with food and help, and children from the neighborhood came to play with their children. Although they are not a religious family, the Hanssens feel very comfortable in a mixed place where religious families live next to secular ones, where mixed couples (religious and secular) are accepted and where nobody judges you for the way you live your life.


Gavi’s wife spent a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem during her college years, so her Hebrew was already very good; and she only needed some high-level Hebrew lessons with eTeacher to sharpen up her language before arrival. Gavi also studied Hebrew before and took online classes before and after making Aliya. He felt that his online teacher, Nili Gross, helped him not only with the language, but also with Israeli culture and perspective. Although Olim Chadashim are entitled to a free Ulpan (intensive Hebrew courses), Gavi decided instead to continue his studies online with his outstanding teacher, Nili. The most important thing, beyond the lessons, is speaking Hebrew everywhere: at the bank, the store, at his children’s school, in the street – not feeling embarrassed about mistakes, simply speaking Hebrew.

Children’s adjustment

Gavi has found that the adjustment is easier for his kids the younger they are. His four-year-old daughter already speaks Hebrew that she acquired in her preschool. His older boys have friends and participate in lots of after-school activities. They seem to be happy and well adjusted. Sometimes they do dream about their familiar environment back in Denver and sometimes they miss skiing, but overall, they don’t have many problems.

Gavi says that he sometimes experiences unique communication problems with his children when he tries to help them with homework. The children learn new terms in school in Hebrew and when he tries to help them, he finds that he lacks the words in Hebrew, while the kids lack the words in English.


When asked about his greatest revelation about living in Israel, Gavi thought for a moment and said, “It’s a normal life in here. People think that living in the Holy land, surrounded by Jewish people is very special, but people here go around their business and have the same concerns that people all over the world have – mortgage, job, etc. I don’t worry about bombs here, but about rent, education, about normal things.”

Overall experience

Although it was probably easier to stay in their familiar environment in the USA, Gavi and his wife feel that their Aliya gave the family “opportunity for huge emotional and spiritual growth.”

Gavi sees Aliya from English-speaking counties as unique because their choice to live in Israel did not come from a need the way it does for others who may not be able to live freely as Jews in their countries of origin.

“I look from the back of my house at the Mediterranean Sea and I feel that I am part of history, I am part of Israel, and I am happy to be here. We are committed and we’re gonna make it!”

So come visit Israel and learn Hebrew online with eTeacherHebrew! Join Now!

Live: Watch Your Friends and Family Arrive in Israel

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

On Monday, July 22, 2013 at 7 AM Israel Time (12 PM NY Time), you can watch the latest Nefesh B’Nefesh landing ceremony on JewishPress.com.

Welcome home!

Southern Israel New Frontier for Jewish Immigrants

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Ravit Greenberg, the program director of the Go South Program, recently told U.W.I. that Southern Israel is the new frontier for Jewish immigrants making Aliyah to Israel.

Photo credit: Nefesh B'Nefesh

Photo credit: Nefesh B’Nefesh

Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that assists Jews immigrating to Israel from North America, is promoting Aliyah to Southern Israel via the Go South program. Go South Program director Ravit Greenberg recently told United With Israel, “The mission of the Go South Program is to raise awareness among potential olim (new immigrants) before they make Aliyah. We are also doing the same for people that already made Aliyah yet are living in the center or Jerusalem and assist olim living in Southern Israel to integrate into Israeli society.” The Nefesh B’Nefesh Go South program hosts employment search workshops, social events for both singles and families, and holiday activities for English speaking immigrants in Southern Israel.

Greenberg said housing is significantly less expensive in Southern Israel than it is in the central part of the country and Jerusalem. She said the average cost of living for a family of five in Modiin a city in central Israel, is $5,000, while in Southern Israel’s Be’ersheva, it is only $3,890.

In terms of employment, she said, “It is a region full of opportunities; there is a lot of development. There is the opportunity to make an impact; to start a community; and to dedicate yourself to the community. The South is Israel’s new frontier.” She mentioned the new technology park at Ben Gurion Universty, as well as the Israel Defense Forces, as possible employers for residents in Southern Israel. Greenberg also said that due to the existence of the fast train to Tel Aviv and the Route 6 Highway to Jerusalem, commuting into work in those areas is not as difficult as it used to be.

Greenberg said that although many Israelis are not interested in having a one hour commute to work and don’t want to live far away from their families, Jews from western countries don’t share this worldview: “It is more of a cultural norm in the US that you need to travel to work, to see your family. Yet it should not be an option only for pioneers; you are living in an affordable place for your convenience.”

Greenberg reported that the Go South program has been very successful, “We started in 2012 and I came on board in 2013. Through marketing campaigns, we gathered the interest of 800 families in moving to the south over the last few months and we are engaging with these families. I have had 250 people ask for more information through our website.” She emphasized, “People are shocked by the difference in the cost of living, when you show them a comparative budget. I think that olim who don’t know the geography didn’t know it was so close to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. People are shocked how much Be’ersheva has grown. There are a lot of surprises and unraveling of myths. People have concepts of what it is and we are shattering misconceptions.”

Photo credit: Nefesh B'Nefesh

Photo credit: Nefesh B’Nefesh

Visit United with Israel.

US and IDF (American) Soldiers Celebrate 4th of July Together

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Thursday, July 4th, 30 North American soldiers and officers celebrated American Independence Day together with over 150 IDF lone soldiers who made Aliyah from the United States with the assistance of Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency For Israel and Tzofim Garin Tzabar. These organizations, along with Friends of the IDF (FIDF), fund events like the Fourth of July party to build relationships with the soldiers throughout their military service and to also provide them with personal and financial support.

The celebration took place at Gordon Beach in Tel Aviv honoring the classic American traditions, including a BBQ, beer, American music and much red, white and blue.

Players from the Judean Rebels of the Israeli Football League, also founded by immigrants from the United States, joined the party as well. There are over 600 amateur and professional football players in Israel, who meet every week in different locations throughout the country to play and enjoy the game they learned back home. The vast majority of the players are immigrants who came to Israel from North America through Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency For Israel.

Erez Halfon vice chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh, said: “Nefesh B’Nefesh and FIDF wanted to celebrate this day with some of the soldiers who immigrated to Israel and left behind family and friends, but are still connected to the traditions and memories.”

US and IDF Soldiers

US and IDF Soldiers

Strong Starts: Academic and Professional Opps for Young Olim

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Getting tension headaches at the thought of financing a degree? Wondering how to use a degree you’ve already earned that doesn’t reflect your actual job skills? More and more students and young professionals are thinking Israel and tasting success.

It’s no news that U.S. tuition costs have skyrocketed. According to Forbes.com, the college education inflation rate has gone up almost 500% since 1985. The current recession hasn’t helped either. Young people are searching for a better life and finding it in Israel. In 2012, 1,577 young professionals and students made Aliyah with Nefesh B’Nefesh. This represents a 13% increase since 2009, and the 2013 stats are expected to be even higher. Nefesh B’Nefesh is following the trend and provide the resources, assistance and guidance that is helping this increasing number of Jews ages 18-35 to consider their options and build their future in the Jewish homeland.

“We’ve got a bumper crop of young people making Aliyah,” reports Marc Rosenberg, Director of Pre-Aliyah Counseling at Nefesh B’Nefesh. Rosenberg cites the Birthright and Masa programs, plus a greater tendency towards taking off a gap year to do a Young Judaea or yeshivah program, as possible causes.“Israel is a dynamic place with a Jewish majority,” he reflects. “You can live a life of meaning here and your sense of identity won’t be challenged the way it can be living in the Diaspora. In addition, college grads can get master’s degrees here without putting themselves into $100,000 debt, and they’ll find jobs.”

Seattle-native Tali Gourarie, 27, made the move to Israel and is enjoying the warmth of her new life in sunny Tel Aviv, and her Israeli Masters degree. Gourarie grew up with a strong Jewish identity and was active in Young Judaea both as a camper and as a member of the leadership board. Gourarie made Aliyah in February 2008, a year after graduating college, and enrolled in a Political Science Master’s Program at HebrewUniversity two and a half years later. Why? One reason was that she could afford to do it. As part of the immigrant rights package, the government offers tuition-free undergraduate and graduate degrees to newcomers who meet the following criteria: Enrollment in a recognized Hebrew-language academic program within three years of Aliyah, by immigrants under age 27 for undergraduate study and age 30 for graduate school. “I was allowed to hand in all my papers in English,” she explains. “And whenever we had Hebrew reading assignments they gave me alternative material. They were never making exceptions just for me,” Gourarie is quick to point out. “One third of my class were English speakers.”

Can young Olim who don’t have a knack for languages also save themselves tens of thousands of dollars in tuition? Yes, within certain limitations. There are at least ten private institutions offering studies entirely in English. Olim can take the approximately $3,000 of tuition money that the government would have paid for a public Hebrew program, and use it towards private school tuition, which ranges from $6,000 – $25,000 per year. The wide range of degrees on offer include: Creative Writing, Jewish Education Leadership, and Computer Science.

Whether you study in Hebrew or in English, getting your degree in Israel can save you time, money, and help you build up a professional network before you’ve even stepped foot outside the classroom. To maximize the benefits, Gourarie urges Olim students to do volunteering, internships or jobs related to their degree. Unlike the North-American set-up where high school graduates often spend four years sampling liberal arts before settling upon a professional direction, Israelis head there from day one. Law school is an undergraduate degree and even medical school begins then, saving future doctors four years of tuition and time. “Another incentive was that here most people in Master’s programs work full-time. The studies are not as intensive as in the U.S.,” she observes. Gourarie even got to study in Austria for free simply because she was a (newly-minted) Israeli citizen. “Lots of European organizations run free or subsidized study programs in conjunction with Israeli universities that are specifically for Israeli students.”

“Israelis attend university to train for professions and are therefore very focused in their studies,” says Rosenberg. “Most have already done the army, so they’re older and very driven. That’s the mentality here and it’s very vibrant. Definitely worth exploring.” The market value of an Israeli degree is also a factor to consider. “Academic inflation, where a person needs higher and higher degrees to get a job, hasn’t hit Israel yet,” Rosenberg comments. “For example, someone with a Bachelor’s in social work can accomplish a lot here, without having a Master’s degree.”

Not surprisingly Israeli employers share the pragmatic mindset of Israeli academia. More important than where you went to school or which degree hangs on your wall is whether you have the skills and the experience to do the job. “It’s a skill-based economy,” Rosenberg explains. “So if you have knowledge of databases and SEO, employers don’t care if you studied English Literature in college. They’re looking for skills and for personality.”

Yehuda Kohn is one of the many young professionals whose success gives the NBN staff much pride. This past August, Kohn came on Aliyah from Bergenfield, N.J. with his wife Naomi and their four young children. Despite having a highly specific profession (wine distribution) and moving to Israel without a job in hand, Kohn and family have found their place in Israel and are all thriving. How did everything fall into place?


Prior to Aliyah, Kohn, 31, was a regional manager for out-of-state wine markets. The Kohns were members of a vibrant Jewish community but they dreamed of coming on Aliyah. “It was a Catch-22 situation,” Kohn explains. “I wanted a new job in Israel but my job in the States was so unique that if I had tried to look for work my boss would have heard about it, and I wasn’t ready to leave yet.” After a few one-on-one meetings and group information sessions with NBN staff, he developed a game plan. “We finally decided that if we wanted this, we needed to set an Aliyah date and work towards it. We gave ourselves a year and a half, ample time for getting passports, selling our home, settling business, packing, and networking in whatever ways I could. Mentally, setting a date got us psyched up and able to prepare properly.”

On the professional front, Kohn had two full-time job offers on the table a month after his arrival.  He is now the export manager at Tabor Winery, responsible for directing all international business, and attributes his job search success to an Israeli in the food industry who he met once at a trade show in the U.S. They stayed in touch, and ultimately that Israeli recommended him for the position.


Kohn has tips for young people who are still in the wishing phase. “Aliyah means leaving your comfort zone in one way or another, so you need to come with an open mind. It could mean living in a different kind of community or working in a different segment of your profession, but different doesn’t mean bad. If this is your dream and you have the opportunity to do it at a young age, you’re giving your family the biggest gift you could ever give them. So many people want to come but life gets in the way, or it seems scary so they push it off. When you commit and build towards it, Aliyah is definitely a feasible goal.”

This year’s bumper crop of young Olim couldn’t agree more.

Explore your career in Israel, for more information click here.

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