Israel is not just a place I love, it’s the place that taught me love. In 2017, I moved to Israel for a yearlong immersive experience with Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF). Little did I know that my soon-to-be husband, Ben, was also arriving in Israel around the same time to make Aliyah.
We were introduced through a mutual friend in Haifa and quickly became friends. Over several weeks, we got to know each other. We bonded over our love for Israel and the experience of moving there. And like most people, we talked about all the small things, like our favorite football teams and what foods we liked and didn’t like, but also the big things, like the challenges we faced until that point and what we both wanted to achieve in life. In time, Ben became an honorary member of the MITF family.
At first, neither of us was interested in a serious relationship. Yet, we continued spending time experiencing Israel together. So imagine my surprise when Ben, who claimed he wanted to remain casual, soon made the bold move of calling me his girlfriend when speaking to other fellows on my program. The directness of Israelis seemed to be rubbing off on him, and for the better.
Ben was part of a football team in Haifa. It was an activity that connected him to home while living abroad. Unfortunately, a few months into our relationship, he was badly tackled. We rushed to the emergency room, and Ben was forced to undergo surgery. During that difficult time, I knew there wasn’t a single thing I would rather be doing than be with him. I wanted nothing more than to take all his pain away and make sure he never experienced it again. I realized that I had fallen deeply in love with a boy who had always lived just one state over, but who I had to move across the world to meet.
And then it happened. On November 16, 2018, I went shopping with a friend of mine, and we stopped by the Rosen Garden, near the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa. As soon as I rounded the corner, I saw my friends standing and waiting for me. Ben was in front of them with a big grin across his face. I, on the other hand, looked at them with confusion and shock. Ben took my hand, knelt on one knee, and pulled out a ring. I tried my best not to cry as I said yes. It was by far the best decision I have ever made.
We got married on October 19, 2019 in Milton, Delaware, surrounded by family and friends. Now that we are back in the States, Israel continues to be an important part of our home. It is where our story as a couple began and where we learned so much about ourselves both as individuals and as a unit.
Ben and I hold dual citizenships, and, in the future, we hope to return to Israel with our children so they too can experience the beautiful country where our love story began.