All my friends and family know that I love the boyband One Direction. What I had never expected about my love of One Direction would be that it would lead me to find the love of my life.

Right after I graduated from Yale, I began communicating online with Ronnie, a film student at Tel Aviv University who shared my affinity for Harry, Liam, Louis, Zayn, Niall, and their music. A connection quickly formed between me and Ronnie, but we were separated by eight time zones and two seas at the time. When I say we were long distance, I mean we were really long distance. Even though we loved getting to know each other through our online connection, it was really difficult to further the relationship with all that distance between us—we wanted to meet in person!

So, in 2016, I made came to Israel as part of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Rahat program, which allowed me to not only explore my professional ambitions in Israel, but also give me the opportunity to spend more time, in person, with Ronnie. The connection we forged while apart proved to be just as real in person, and we soon got engaged at an LGBT film festival where one of Ronnie’s films was set to premier. We didn’t wait much longer before we got married in a civil ceremony in New York, before returning to Israel for a huppah. I’m so thankful I decided to take the chance to take part in a Masa program, which in turn led me to meet my lifelong partner in person and know in my heart that our relationship was real and strong. Thanks to both Masa my own courage, the online friend with whom I once shared funny memes and the latest gossip about Harry Styles has now become the woman with whom I’ll spend my life.

Maayan Belding-Zion is a Masa alum of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows and a current staff member for the program with Israel Experience.

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