#Meet_the_Oleh Jonathan Reizes
Updated: May 6
Aliyah Date: July 2019
Made Aliyah from Maryland, USA
Currently living in Herzliya
From teaching on a MASA program to working at an Israeli Nonprofit, to officially making Aliyah, Jonathan has had tons of unique experiences in his Aliyah journey. But his roots go much deeper...
Jonathan's story starts out a bit different...technically, he is already an Israeli citizen. His father is Israeli, so he obtained citizenship through his father before officially making Aliyah. His mother also made Aliyah, but eventually both his parents didn't stay in Israel and ended up settling in Maryland.
So what was Jonathan's relationship with Israel growing up?
During elementary and middle school, he would always visit Israel and their family there. They have family in Raanana, Hod Hasharon, Holon, and even Bnei Brak. So making Aliyah with a lot of family here has made the experience a bit less intimidating.
Though Jonathan had been to Israel several times, Birthright changed everything. It was in his sophomore year of college, he really felt attached to the land of Israel The group setting was a really positive experience for him. He really wanted to get back to Israel -- but wasn't sure how. Then his Birthright Israel Fellow at the University of Maryland told him about an internship program through Onward Israel. And so he did an internship for the summer. The first half of the program was trips all over the country. The second half was an internship program, where he got to intern at a start-up In Jerusalem. Here, Jonathan got a taste of “The Start-Up Nation”. Jonathan returned to America to finish his B.A. in Political Science and Minor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. But then he was faced with a difficult decision -- what to do next. Will he do a gap year? Continue his studies? Or get a job in his field? Ultimately, Jonathan decided to partake in the Masa Israel Teaching Fellowship program in Rishon Lezion from 2017-2018.
After ten incredible months of teaching, getting used to the culture, making bonds with students and families, and learning Hebrew, Jonathan returned to the US. But when he landed in the US he had a feeling he would come back and make Aliyah.
In the US, he worked for an Israeli nonprofit as a field coordinator for Tamid Group. This connected him to the start-up nation -- and after working there for a few months, he decided to staff a Birthright trip. On this trip, Jonathan fell in love with the country all over again. During that trip, he met up with some friends, and one of them said, “I think it seems like your heart is pulling you to Israel." Jonathan knew there was a risk, but he also knew if he didn't take this opportunity now, he might regret it.
In March 2019, he started the paperwork for Aliyah and was approved quickly. He made Aliyah in July and immediately went to study at Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem. Of Ulpan Etzion, he says, "It gave me a great foundation -- you have a place to live, you have people, friends. You have a support system. Because most of the people attending the Ulpan are Olim, everyone is willing to help each other out!”
Jonathan's parents were already Israeli citizens when he made Aliyah. What did they think of all of this?
His parents were very supportive of the decision. They wanted to make sure he was sure but were very supportive. Jonathan says, "It’s been very tough as an Oleh during Corona, but I speak to my family every day." Jonathan comes from very Zionistic roots. His father was a soldier, and his grandfather was part of the Irgun, a paramilitary organization during the Mandate of Palestine. His roots run deep!
Jonathan will be starting school soon -- he is enrolled in an MBA program starting at IDC Herzliya in November. But he is also looking for part-time work in customer relations or business in the meantime. During Corona, he became certified in IT support, Google Cloud Security, Cybersecurity. All these are important skills that can be used and facilitated in the world of High Tech.
So what advice for Olim does Jonathan have? One challenge is dealing with the government offices, the bureaucracy especially if you don’t know the language. This is a reason, Ulpan is so important! Getting your passport, license, Teduat Zehut (I.D), you have to go to these offices and it helps if you have a good foundation of Hebrew. Sometimes struggles with these offices are that you are often are being redirected or turned down for service. Everyone who lives here knows this challenge first hand!
But he says that you can't be afraid. Living in Israel will make you stronger than you ever thought!