• Yael, second from right, celebrates her first Yom Haatzmaut - Independence Day - as an Israeli with her friends.

  • Reading a poem for the Ulpan Etzion Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day - ceremony.

  • Celebrating Israel’s independence with Olim Hadashim from all over the world.

  • Trip to Ein Gedi - a national park near the Dead Sea - with the Ulpan Etzion program,

  • Purim in the Ulpan (kita daled).


New olah from Belgium makes leap of faith to Israel...and has no regrets

“I wasn’t sure it was going to work – I was only 50% sure I wanted to do this – but I wanted to try...I have no regrets.” - Yael Bergman

If you ever find yourself at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel-Aviv, you might come across Yael Bergman, confidently giving tours to visitors in French. She seems at ease in Israel, and well integrated into society. But a few months ago, things were different.

"I wasn't sure about making Aliyah [immigrating to Israel]. This is definitely a huge change in your life."

Yael Bergman grew up in Belgium. She visited Israel as a child for her brother’s Bar Mitzvah and for some family vacations. She was intrigued by the country, and even came on two different 5-month Masa Israel Journey Hebrew language programs, first at a Maof Academy and later at an ulpan program at Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, south of Haifa. She thought about Aliyah.

Still, Yael was hesitant.

Yael returned to Belgium where she studied the history of religions and did a master’s degree in Jewish Identity at the University of Brussels.

"[Israel] was a country where I almost knew nobody. Also, I didn't know how to fit into Israeli society and to be a part of it.”

But she reached a point after completing her master’s degree at which she realized that if she was going to immigrate to Israel, the time was right. She wasn’t sure about it, but decided to go ahead anyway. She made Aliyah in February this year.

“I wasn’t sure it was going to work – I was only 50% sure I wanted to do this – but I wanted to try,” said the 26-year-old.

A few months later? She’s sure.

“I have no regrets” Yael says.

“Now I’m very, very happy with the decision I’ve made and everything is going great for me here.”

Yael is attending The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Ulpan Etzion in Ra’anana, where she is working on improving her Hebrew and making connections with fellow new immigrants.

“It’s the best way to enter Israeli society with other new immigrants who are experiencing the same thing,” Yael said of the ulpan experience. “It’s amazing. My Hebrew is getting better, I’m practicing every day.”

In addition to giving tours in French at the Rabin Center, Yael is also training to become a tour guide in English, French and Hebrew at the Beit Hatfutsot (the Museum of the Jewish People).

“Being a guide in the museums is a great opportunity for me to teach visitors about our society and community,” Yael explained. “As a guide, I can pass to them values important to us and the truth is, I learn as much from them than they learn from me. Guiding is about sharing.”

As for her family in Belgium? Yael said that they weren’t surprised by her decision to make Aliyah and that they have been very supportive of her decision.

Besides, she added, “I’m not alone - even if my family’s not here - I have friends I can rely on.”

That fact and her experience so far in Israel has led her to conclude she has made the right decision - even though she was initially nervous about making Aliyah.

"My first three months here have proved me wrong," she said. "I can't really explain why, but the feeling I have today is far away from the one I had then."

18 May 2016 / 10 Iyar 5776 0
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