16 Jun A Love That Went the Distance
When Maayan, 29, from New York, and Ronnie, 26, from Rishon LeZion in Israel, first struck up a friendship online, they never thought it would turn into lasting love. But after a year and a half of long-distance dating, Maayan seized the opportunity to come to Israel on a Masa program. She chose to participate in Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, a 10-month fellowship for college graduates who want to make a difference by teaching English while becoming immersed in Israeli society.
Of course, added benefits to MITF were the opportunity to discover if she could see herself living in Israel long-term and the ability to be closer to Ronnie to see if their relationship could go the distance once they were spending more time together and living in the same country.
Maayan opted for a Masa program in Be’er Sheva, where she volunteered in a Bedouin school in the nearby town of Rahat, teaching English. She credits Masa with truly empowering her to start her life in Israel and move there permanently.
“I can’t imagine living the life I do today in Israel if it weren’t for Masa. The education I received about Israeli society, the resources Masa gave me access to, the community I was able to build through Masa–all of it was truly life-changing,” reflected Maayan. “Compared to olim (immigrants to Israel) who didn’t have a Masa experience, I felt so much more prepared to tackle real-life in Israel.”
The education I received about Israeli society, the resources Masa gave me access to, the community I was able to build through Masa--all of it was truly life-changing.
Maayan now actually works as part of the MITF team, specifically working with Israel Experience, which she calls ‘incredibly meaningful.’
“As staff of a Masa program, I now get to be part of the bridge that helps young Jews form a life-long relationship to Israel. Whether they choose to stay here or go back to their home community, it’s an honor and a privilege to be part of that journey,” explained Maayan.
And to celebrate Pride Month, Maayan reflected on how being part of the LGBT community affected her Masa experience and what Pride means to her.
“Being gay and out on MITF led me to make amazing connections with queer Jewish people from all over the world doing Masa, and that was incredible,” said Maayan. “And for me, Pride Month is a celebration of how far we’ve come, but also a reminder of how far we have to go until we achieve true equality for all.”
After Maayan’s MITF program was over, she and Ronnie decided to move in together. Less than a year later, they were engaged. Ronnie and Maayan were wed in a civil ceremony in Hyde Park, New York in August 2019, and in a Masorti Jewish ceremony outside Rishon LeZion in November 2019. Happily married, the couple now lives in Rishon LeZion.