After arriving in Asheklon in September 2009, Allison Wolkin Samis and Max Samis met during the Hebrew immersion placement exam for their Masa Israel Journey volunteer experience. Neither of the two strangers knew much Hebrew. They didn’t even have to wait for their test results to find out that they were placed in kita aleph, the beginners’ class. So, they left the exam and headed to their first volunteer project.

The new acquaintances were paired with two local volunteers to deliver Rosh Hashanah meals for families in need. Throughout their deliveries, Max and Allie began talking and getting to know one another.

“A few weeks later, during the Sukkot break, Allie was going to Egypt with a few people and invited me,” Max remembers. However, Allie’s memory of the conversation is a bit different.

“That’s not true, he invited himself,” Allie, originally from Dresher, PA interjects. “‘That sounds cool, can I come?’” she teases.

Regardless of how Max ended up on the trip, they both agree – their relationship started as they walked through the border crossing from Eilat, Israel to Taba, Egypt. During that trip, they had their first kiss while riding a camel in Giza.

“Our wedding song was ‘A Whole New World’ because that’s the song that Max sang to me on the camel when we were by the pyramids,” Allie gushes.

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Allie and Max with their Masa Israel friends at the wedding

It seems only fitting that their story started with such an adventure, as travel soon became the theme of their relationship. Due to the structure of their program, Allie and Max lived in separate cities for two-thirds of their Masa Israel experiences.

“It was a lot of buses and sheruts back and forth to meet up for as many weekends as we could,” Max, a native of St. Louis, explains.

While they enjoyed their weekly adventures, the constant commute – in a foreign country, no less – came with some frustrations. Neither Max nor Allie had stellar Hebrew skills and figuring out Israel’s public transportation systems, especially outside of the major cities, was not easy. Still, it was always exciting to share new experiences in new places with one another.


Allie and Max on Masada for an Israeli Opera Society production

The two travel bugs’ journeys were not limited to Israel. Allie and Max took full advantage of every opportunity to indulge their mutual wanderlust and travelled to Croatia and Turkey.

“That was the theme of our wedding – all of the travelling we’ve done together and the places we’ve been to together,” Allie explains.

In April, Max and Allie celebrated their one year wedding anniversary. However, they aren’t sure how they would have met it if it were not for Masa Israel.

“I always think, what if I’d gone on the Peace Corps or stayed at my job?” Allie ponders. “He’s a Midwesterner, how would our paths have crossed?”

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Max and Allie’s roommates from Israel signing the ketubah at their wedding

Max and Allie have lived in Washington D.C. since the fall of 2010. Max earned his MA in Media and Public Affairs from George Washington University in 2013 and is now a Senior Associate at a political and nonprofit communications firm. Allie works in fundraising and event planning for the Society for Human Resource Management. They continue to travel together and plan to visit Israel for their fifth wedding anniversary, if not sooner.

Live Israel like a local, while serving a community in need. Learn more about Masa Israel’s volunteer opportunities today!

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