Aliyah, Bar Mitzvah, friendship, Kibbutz Gezer, marriage, miracles

From Kibbutz Gezer to Neve Daniel

Look how young and cute we were! 20 years ago…

20 years ago today Josh and I started dating, while participating in a one year post-college social service program in Israel called Otzma. We actually first started dating at Kibbutz Gezer, and last night Josh very romantically swept me off my feet and brought me back to the Kibbutz. With a sushi picnic-basket in hand, a blanket, pomegranate wine and a dozen red roses, we revisited our first date in a beautifully orchestrated evening.

Who would have thought, sitting under the stars at Kibbutz Gezer in the middle of Israel 20 years ago that we would live here now, raising six Israeli children and reveling in a community life such as ours. It’s certainly been a week of reflection and gratitude.

On Sunday, the night before our return to Kibbutz Gezer, we celebrated the bar mitzvah of our son’s closest friend, Maimon. But Maimon is not just Matan’s close friend. 

When we met on Otzma, one of the people leading the program and coordinating all of the logistics for the group was Eric Esses. He was a sweet, kind person, only a few years older than we were, and we enjoyed our time during the year getting to know him. We were also on the program with Ellen Babil, who will also come into the story later.

And then we went home and carried on with our lives.

A few years later, after we got married, Josh went to Ukraine and Israel for a three week seminar with his graduate school program. During the trip, he met a woman named Isha who was coordinating pieces of the program that he was on. They enjoyed hanging out together and became fast friends. As his trip ended, I met him in Israel. And while we were here, Josh and I went out to dinner with Isha. What we didn’t know was that Eric was coming along as well…to say hi to us and to have his first date with Isha!

It was a great evening, and we were sure that Isha and Eric would continue seeing each other. We returned to the States and to our lives, and we awaited their engagement announcement and then enjoyed hearing about the birth of their first baby, Maimon, soon after the birth of ours, Matan. Similarly, we became fast friends with Ellen and her boyfriend, Amos, who both went grad school with Josh. They would soon marry and we would stay in touch with them through the years as well.

And life went on for many years.

Fast forward to our Aliyah. Soon after returning to Israel, we got back in touch with Eric and Isha. We were acquaintances for a while, and then Josh actually took one of his first jobs in Israel working for Eric. Eventually, when Eric and Isha started looking for a larger house outside of Jerusalem, we helped them to find their home on our street. And we encouraged Ellen and Amos to make Israel their home, helping them to settle in Neve Daniel a few years after we did.

And on Sunday night, 20 years later, we all celebrated Maimon’s bar mitzvah together. 

Matan and Maimon dancing the night away
Little did we know 20 years ago when we met Eric or 17 years ago when we accompanied Eric and Isha on their first date that our oldest sons would be best friends and that we would be building our lives intertwined in Neve Daniel.
Eric and Josh 20 years later
It was such a joy to dance, sing and enjoy with the family, and to marvel at where we all were 20 years ago, and how far we have all come together. Had you told me at 22 that I would be dancing with Isha and Ellen in Neve Daniel 20 years later at a son’s bar mitzvah, surrounded by our 15 collective children and our religiously committed lives, I would have had a great laugh.

The ladies: Ellen, Isha and me
But really, Hashem always gets the last laugh, doesn’t he?
And allowing Him to take us by the hand and having the faith to follow where He leads has truly been the biggest gift in our lives.
From Kibbutz Gezer to Boston, Potomac, and eventually Neve Daniel, it’s been quite a ride for these 20 years. Here’s to another 20, 40 and 60 years of health, happiness and friendships such as these with Hashem’s guiding hand.

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