Online Friendships and Aliyah No Longer Headline News?

Back in 1997 when my husband and I met on the Internet it was deemed quite a newsworthy event by the local newspaper – our photo was splashed across the front page (it was a small town) along with a nice human interest story. In the technologically advanced age of 2009, people meeting online and having rich relationships is common and therefore no longer newsworthy. Except on MY BLOG!

Today I had the honor and pleasure of chatting in-person at Ben Gurion airport with a woman from Skokie, Illinois who I met briefly while she was being whisked through apartments in Ma’ale Adumim last March by the city’s Aliyah Coordinator. Bryna Lee and her husband A.J. were planning Aliyah and wanted to get a feel for what apartments in Ma’ale Adumim looked and felt like. I remember telling her that our apartment was by far NOT typical Israeli style (our landlady and her father – engineer and architect – were from Denmark and designed/positioned the house in such a way that it was bright, spacious and with a breathtaking view of the Judean Hills – refer to the banner above). And that we had no plans of leaving it in the near future. Well, obviously Hashem had other plans!

Since that brief meeting in March, Bryna Lee and I have exchanged hundreds of e-mail and Facebook messages and discovered that we are kindred spirits. She and A.J. are moving into our “old” apartment and taking our place in a community that will forever remain dear to our hearts. So, of course, I felt compelled to be at the Nefesh B’Nefesh Welcoming Ceremony for her Aliyah flight this morning.

What about the Dogs? They Make Aliyah Too!

Gad Ben Rosen - PetSplashWhile Yisrael and I were waiting for the plane to arrive we ran into Gad Ben Rosen of PetSplash-Ra’anana. Gad made Aliyah with NBN on September 6th 2006, so today was just a few days past his Aliyahversary. Gad is passionate about the well-being of dogs and brought along gift treat bags for the dogs on this Aliyah flight. I observed him taking personal responsibility to help the new olim collect their dogs and confirm they weren’t too frazzled by the 11-hour flight (plus several hours of being cooped up before and after it). What a mitzvah! Kol haKavod Gad!

Anticipation Builds – Waiting for Friends and Loved Ones

The Press was allowed outside to find the best spots from which to capture the moment. The crowd of guests cheered, sang and blew shofars as we all watched the plane land on the big screens. People cried and screamed as they saw their loved ones descending the stairs and boarding buses. Security opened the gates and allowed us outside. Groups from yeshivot and seminaries gathered together. Soldiers took their places to hand Israeli flags to the new olim as they arrived and paraded into Terminal 1. Those of us who brought posters and banners vied for the best spots from which to be seen by the people we were waiting for. I’m sure the sight was overwhelming to many of the new olim – I know this because I was overwhelmed when I saw over 500 people waiting to greet my flight last year.

While we all waited with our signs and Israeli flags held high, I was touched watching the numerous families reunited… tears, laughter, singing and dancing as the band played “Shalom aleichem, avinu, Shalom aleichem…”

My Online Friend Arrives!

Suddenly the trance was broken as Bryna Lee yelled “here I am!”

They got some refreshments and we found seats and settled in for a nice chat – it was as if we were old friends. For those of us who like to write, I think the Internet has provided an incredible opportunity for developing strong bonds with people we otherwise might not have ever met. Looking back on my many moves around the US, I don’t recall more than a handful of close relationships developing in-person and those were over long periods of time. I attribute the intensity of the relationships that have blossomed online to the fact that through writing and sharing photos/videos, we get to know so much more about each other than most people might share during casual in-person interaction at work, community activities, school, etc. At least that’s the way it’s been for me.

We’ve Only Just Begun…

And speaking of intense relationships, a young man who made Aliyah in 2004 proposed marriage on the NBN stage this morning to a young woman who made Aliyah today!

238 People Making Aliyah Together is No Longer Headline News?

Seven hours after the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight arrived today bringing 238 new Israeli citizens home; I am shocked and disappointed to see that the press has made so little of a fuss over this historic event. I just checked the following sites, again:

  • Arutz Sheva – if you scroll 3/4 of the way down the page to the Photo Essay section, you’ll find “Signs of the Time of Ingathering” with 20 photos. (On second check before publishing this, I came across a headline I hadn’t noticed until I ran a “FIND” command on “olim” – Livni Welcomes Olim. Those of us who are disgusted by Livni have a tendency to skip over her name – poor choice of headline and they don’t list the cities the new olim will be living in.)
  • Jerusalem Post – no mention of the arrival of 238 new citizens.
  • Haaretz – no mention, but there is an article that asks if it’s financially harder for women to make Aliyah.

I suppose that by the Sunday edition at least one of them will pick up on the cute marriage proposal story, but what does their lack of immediacy in publishing this real News (as opposed to so much of the sensationalism, opinions and propaganda that are passed off as news) mean? Is Aliyah so “common” these days that the media doesn’t think the public needs to know that:

  • There are 238 new immigrants who need a place to spend this coming Shabbat and the upcoming chagim?
  • Possibly 100 or more children who will need buddies to help them adjust to gan/school?
  • Parents without Hebrew skills who could use help in determining the specific books and supplies required by each teacher?
  • People who could use help locating and getting to the services they need in their new community, including navigating the transportation system?

Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency do their best to help new olim, but it honestly takes community members to make new olim feel like they have really come home. We are so thankful to the many precious people in Ma’ale Adumim for helping us overcome the initial challenges following our Aliyah – we might have survived without them but it wouldn’t have been pleasant.

Is it possible that in the future no one will think to look up historic events in the newspapers for documentation? Today it appears that Blogs, e-mail chat lists and social networking sites are going to have to fill in where the press falls short (unless sleep deprivation is causing me to be too impatient and the press is going to come out with a report on the 6:00 news).

Please ask around in your community if there might be new olim – and do what you can to help them. Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet Ra’anana’s new olim at the airport today, so I’m signing off for now to try to track them down through NBN.

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