I was four years old when I first met Asaf, the seven-year-old nephew of one of my father’s close friends, while on a family trip to Israel.  Looking back, Asaf and I had no idea of the significance that meeting would one day hold.

Nearly two decades passed before I saw Asaf again. After growing up in Greater New York, I felt compelled to go on Birthright, where I coincidentally stayed with Asaf’s aunt. Sensing there would be a connection between the American girl (me) and her Israeli nephew, Asaf’s aunt set us up on a date. We quickly took to each other, but just like the first time we met, we would soon be separated by a seemingly insurmountable distance as I prepared to return to the U.S. for college.

Luckily, that is not where our story ends. In the fall of 2014, after I graduated from college, I was accepted into Masa’s WUJS program, which afforded me plenty of time in Israel to continue to deepen my relationship with Asaf and integrate myself into the local customs and community. I made Aliyah in January 2017, and Asaf and I jumped right back into our relationship. By May 2019, we were engaged. It’s hard to believe the two naïve children who first met so many years ago are now set to be husband and wife!

Moving to Israel proved relatively easy for me, as I love the sense of community and family values in Israel. Asaf and I are going to hold our wedding ceremony in Israel, which I like to say will give many of my friends and family the chance to visit this beautiful country for the first time.

While mine and Asaf’s connection was perhaps innate, it was Masa that allowed us to fill in the blanks between our initial brief encounters and build a lasting relationship.

Amanda Naftaly is a Masa alum of the WUJS Israel program.

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