“Young Jews are not only falling in love with Israel but also falling in love in Israel,” notes a spokesperson for the Masa Israel Journey (Masa). And he cites the story of Amanda Naftaly, from Queens, New York, who fell in love with Asaf Arditi from Kfar Saba, Israel. Amanda is grateful to Masa: “They gave me the opportunity to live in Israel for six months.”
Amanda met Asaf for the first time when she was four years old and was visiting Israel with her family. He was a nephew of her father’s close friend. Asaf: “Looking back we had no idea of the significance of that meeting.”
The second stage of their relationship began in July 2012, when Amanda went on a Birthright Israel trip and afterwards stayed with Asaf’s aunt. Amanda was then 20 and Asaf, 23. Amanda: “Sensing there would be a connection between 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 as I prepared to return to the US for college.”
Amanda attended SUNY Oneonta and in 2014 received a BS in Mass Communication/Event Planning. During those two years, the couple had a typical long-distance relationship. Asaf: “But we were lucky to meet up several times. Since I was denied a visa to the United States, we met in Canada on two occasions. Amanda also visited me in Israel.”
In the fall of 2014, Amanda was accepted into Masa, a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel and its partners, which enables young adults to spend time learning and working in Israel. Amanda: “Masa afforded me plenty of time to deepen my relationship with Asaf and integrate myself into Israel’s customs and community.” But soon after her internship ended, this phase of their relationship also ended. Amanda: “I wasn’t ready to move to Israel and we broke up.”
“More than a third of all broken-up couples will reunite,” writes Hana Hong in a recent post at msn.com And she quotes Noelle Nelson PhD, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, who advises: “If you are considering reconnecting, be totally honest with yourself. Examine your motives for doing so. Don’t get back together because you’re bored or afraid you will never find someone else.”
Amanda: “We got back together after I decided that I needed to move to Israel. I did ponder the question – what if Asaf and I didn’t even like each other anymore? But when I told him of my plans, Asaf invited me to move in with him in his parents’ home in Kfar Saba. And I was re-assured.”
Amanda made aliyah in January 2017. Asaf: “We were back together again, and it was like no time at all had passed.”
What’s the takeaway of the story? Amanda:” If you feel it’s right, go for it. And I have to thank my mom who supported my decision.”
Amanda is currently an Assistant to the Deans and Head of the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Asaf is pursuing a career in Quality Assurance.
On May 23, 2019, Amanda’s birthday, Asaf proposed to Amanda with her grandmother’s ring. They were in Tel Aviv, near the place of their first date in 2012.
The couple set a wedding date for May 27, 2020 but had to re-assess because of the coronavirus. Their decision: Keep the date and limit the guest list to 15; and celebrate again at a later date when family from abroad can also participate. Mazal tov.
Note: For other Masa Israel-related love stories, click here.
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.