NEW YORK – On Thursday afternoon, four days before her aliya flight was set to take off from New York City, Roni Rosen, 22, from Tenafly, NJ, was shopping for sunglasses and extra makeup at a New Jersey mall. In Israel, she said, makeup is far more expensive.
Rosen was 18 when she decided to make aliya and join the IDF. Through college at Brandeis University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry, and despite her parents’ belief that this was a passing fad, Rosen planned for the day that she’d make a home in Israel – and on Monday, that dream finally becomes a reality.
The rest of her immediate family – her father, mother, and brother – were all born in Israel. But though Rosen also has Israeli citizenship, she’s never lived there, and for years she’s yearned for the experience.
During the Yom Kippur War, her father had been a tank commander and her mother worked a number of positions – recruiting and artillery, she thinks. When Rosen first mentioned wanting to join at 18, her parents didn’t take her seriously. When she began paying out of her own pocket for Garin Tzabar, the Lone Soldier Program designed to bring young Americans to Israel to train them for the IDF, her parents got it: Roni was serious.
Her father told her the army is a waste of time. But she knows he says that because war is tough, and he’s fought in one of the worst of them.
It was on a family trip to Israel that Rosen’s parents came to peace with the idea of her joining the IDF. Rosen told her father how important it was that she make memories of her own about Israel.
Rosen considered taking a hiatus from college to join the IDF, but figured going back to school after having lived in Israel would be too hard, and so she had better finish her degree. Both her parents are doctors, and she’s been planning on going to medical school herself.
Rosen planned on making aliya in August this year, before the recent round of fighting broke out. Though she wasn’t deterred when the fighting intensified, her parents were a little worried. In an effort to deter her, or to give her an out, Rosen’s father asked once, “Are you sure you want to do this? It’s really hot over there.”
But on Monday, when Rosen boards the plane, her father will be there. Her mother is taking a flight earlier in the day to Israel.
Over its 13 years helping olim make aliya, Nefesh B’Nefesh has chartered more than 50 flights. Monday’s flight is fully booked, with 338 soon-to-be Israelis. Typically Nefesh B’Nefesh charters two flights a year – the first, in July, is the flight for families emigrating together. The August charter is usually designated for lone soldiers, young olim who have just graduated high school or college and are eager to join the IDF.
Upon landing in Israel, the lone soldiers undergo a six-month training and testing period in preparation for the army. They learn Hebrew and undergo physical and psychological testing to determine their most appropriate placement. If things go her way, Rosen will become a paramedic, but whatever happens, she’s happy that she’ll be serving her country.
“I know it’s going to be hard going there,” Rosen says about arriving during a time of war. “Obviously I have to be more careful, but I think it made me want to go more.
Having spent the first part of the summer studying for her MCATs, which she took August 1, Rosen began packing for her move only a few days before the flight.
By the time her MCAT scores are ready for viewing, Rosen will be living in Israel.