“Birthright participants are more likely to marry other Jews,” concludes a recent study. It worked for Tim Alexander of Hagerstown, Maryland, who was 22 when he came to Israel with a Birthright program in the spring of 2011.
Bar Azriel, then a 20-year old soldier, was assigned to the group for five days. Soon Bar became friends with a participant, Allie, who was a friend of Tim’s. Tim had confided in Allie that he thought Bar was beautiful and very nice. “I didn’t speak much directly with Bar because I’m a bit shy,” admits Tim.
When the ten day trip ended, Bar invited Allie to her home in Yavne, a city in Central Israel. Allie asked if she could bring Tim and another friend, Gideon. “Of course,” replied Bar.
Bar continues: “When the four of us went out that first Thursday night, I had special feelings for Tim. The next day my mom, a hospitable Moroccan mother, suggested that I invite my three new friends to stay for Shabbat. But I hesitated. I was afraid they would be bored in the Shabbat observant atmosphere of our home.”
Gideon immediately accepted the invitation, and all three stayed over. During that first weekend, Tim and Bar discussed the possibility of trying a relationship.
About three weeks after they met, Tim asked Bar’s parents to meet with him. He explains: “I wanted them to know that I had to return to the US for my senior year of college; that Bar and I wanted to try a long-term relationship; and most importantly, that I wanted the best for their daughter.” All agreed that G-d willing, it would work out.
Bar adds: “I didn’t know about their meeting, and when my dad told me, I thought, no one ever did this for me before. I started to realize that I should keep him.”
After Tim left, Bar’s friends tried to convince her that this was just a fling and that Bar was wasting her time. But the couple kept getting closer. They would talk every day for hours on the phone. Describing himself as “old school,” Tim would frequently send her letters.
Tim came to Israel during his winter break and arrived in time for a large family party. He had never experienced a Moroccan celebration and Bar’s parents thought he would “freak out.” Actually, he thoroughly enjoyed himself, especially the warmth of Bar’s family. He already had the approval of Bar’s parents, but that night he won over the entire Azriel chamula (clan).
On May 18, 2012, Timothy Stanley Alexander received a BA degree in psychology and Judaic studies from Goucher College. On May 19, he left for Israel without telling Bar. He wanted to surprise her. “I was totally in shock,” she recalls, when he suddenly arrived.
That day, Tim moved in with Bar at her parents’ home. “They welcomed me with open arms, says Tim. “They were like parents to me. I am forever grateful.”
On the day that Tim became an Israeli citizen, he volunteered with the Lone Soldiers program of the Israeli Defense Forces. But Tim was not alone. He had the support of the entire Azriel family.
Bar is currently a third year student in civil engineering at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. Tim completed his master’s degree in Child Development at the University of Haifa, and is now the graduate admissions coordinator at the university’s International School.
“Bar has so many wonderful qualities,” smiles Tim. “Above all, I think she’ll be a wonderful mother.”
Tim and Bar were married on March 22, 2017. Mazal tov.
Dr. Leah Hakimian currently researches the question: How Jewish couples meet and marry. In the 90’s she founded two nonprofit Jewish matchmaking programs, and continues to champion the role of community in helping singles meet. She resides in Jerusalem and Great Neck, New York.