January 22, 2008 / 15 Shevat 5768
Ever since Zoe Hantman visited Israel at the age of 14, she knew she would make aliyah. “I decided that this is where I want to live my life,” the British-born, 19-year-old recalls of her five-month stay. Indeed, at the first opportunity, right after high school graduation, Zoe returned to Israel for good. Today, Zoe works as a madricha (counselor) in the Sarel program for international volunteers on Israeli army bases. She entered the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) through Garin Tzabar, a program run by the Israel Scouts youth movement and supported by the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Absorption.
Garin Tzabar enables groups of young Hebrew speaking Jews – some of whom are the children of Israelis – to make aliyah and join the army. Garin participants live together on a kibbutz and then serve individually in the army, thus receiving much needed support in their transition to Israel and the IDF. The program includes five seminars throughout the year in which participants explore their personal dilemmas and their decision to join the army. They learn about their duties in the army and their rights as citizens of Israel while building a strong peer support network. Zoe lives on Kibbutz Sasa in the North with 24 fellow Garin members. They are one another’s friends, neighbors and surrogate families all in one. “We are all without family in Israel,” she says. “When one person has a ceremony, all of us descend on the event like a typical Israeli family.”
Though Zoe’s actual family is back in England, they are cheering her on from a distance. “My parents are very proud,” she says. She expects at least one of her older brothers, both in university, to follow in her footsteps. Despite the challenges of making aliyah alone, Zoe is thrilled with her new life. “This is my dream – living in Israel, serving in the army. I always said I was going to live here and build my life here, and now I am actually doing it. I’m Israeli now and this is my home,” she says. “This is where I see my future."
The Jewish Agency actively encourages individuals of all ages to move to Israel through its diverse aliyah programs. With your help, the Jewish Agency can continue to facilitate their smooth integration into Israeli society through its absorption programs. Donate here.
To learn more about the programs and activities of Department of Immigration and Absorption, click here.