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Nefesh B'Nefesh Allows People 'to Reconnect With Land of Israel'

August 30, 2007 By:
Ryan Teitman, JE Feature
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For Bethany Bier, the challenges facing Israel are one of the main reasons that she's packing up her life here and moving to the Jewish state. "There, things are tough," she said. "Life is not usually easy for most people, but I think that makes people more in touch with themselves."

At the beginning of September, the 22-year-old will board a plane and -- with the help of the group Nefesh B'Nefesh -- start her new life in Israel.

The choice for her was a long time in coming.

She had gone on trips to Israel when she was younger, but an extended stay in college sealed the deal permanently. She lived there for eight months and even considered transferring to Israel while still in college.

"I really fell in love with it," she said. "I feel such deep connection with my spiritual roots and even more of a connection with myself."

The people of Israel also hold a special place in her heart. "I think the fact that they're blunt and honest," she said, is "really refreshing."

Her family has been very supportive of her decision, she said, and though her parents love Israel as well, they're not quite ready to make the move themselves.

But "it makes it easier" when families support the decision to make aliyah, noted Bier.

In addition, she has the extra support of a number of friends from high school who are making aliyah on the same flight as she is, she said, so "I'll have a support system."

Like nearly every olim, she added, making aliyah means making sacrifices, such as not being able to see her parents as much as she'd like. "It will be very hard to be far from them," she acknowledged.

There's a financial sacrifice to moving as well.

"I can make a lot more money here," she said, referring to the United States, and it's much easier to continue her studies here. She wants to pursue clinical psychology in Israel, which she said is one of the hardest programs to enter.

Nefesh B'Nefesh has helped her tremendously with the bureaucratic aspects of making aliyah. They've sent e-mail about jobs, helped with housing and held support groups.

"It's really helpful socially," said Bier, "because they put you in a position where you can have a group of people that are doing the same thing you are."

Bier will be working until the week before she leaves, as well as seeing as many friends and family as she can. In terms of packing, she's just taking clothes with her. "I don't even feel like I'm doing that much in preparation," she noted.

"Every single olim who works with Nefesh B'Nefesh has a different story," according to Charley Levine, spokesperson for the organization. "Despite all that, there's a bedrock, underlying principle -- the desire to reconnect, as a Jew, with the land of Israel."

The organization provides several core services. First and foremost, said Levine, is connecting olim to jobs. "We think that's the single most important demand." Half of the staff works solely on job placement, he added.

Nefesh B'Nefesh also helps connect olim to communities and find the right schools for their children.

"We do pride ourselves on the fact that we minimize the red tape" that Israel is known for, said Levine. Olim get off the plane not having to run around to different ministry offices, since Nefesh B'Nefesh sets up a paperwork office in business class of the flight to Israel.

Once settled, they receive follow-ups, explained Levine. "We're there just working with them."

The organization also maintains very close contact with newcomers for the first weeks and months, he added. "As the roots take place and grow, they don't really need us at that point."

A typical family is in their late 20s to early 30s with one or two kids, he said. They tend to be highly motivated and educated, with several years of solid work experience, and "very Jewish conscious -- plugged into the Jewish scene."

"Aliyah has been a topic around the Shabbat-table conversation for years" for many of them.

And although 60 percent of Nefesh B'Nefesh olim are modern Orthodox, added Levine, "we're really fishing in much wider waters than the modern Orthodox community."

The recent split between the Jewish Agency for Israel and Nefesh B'Nefesh has generated a considerable amount of discussion, but Levine insists that no one making aliyah will be affected by the divide: "No olim is either feeling or suffering from that."


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