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After spending their early years in separate African countries, Dana and Steven met in a Herzliya Pituah kindergarden in 1973. They kept in touch even after Steven's family moved to America two years later. For Dana and Steven Stern, their aliya on Thursday morning's Nefesh B'Nefesh/Jewish Agency flight from New York was actually their second.
Steven Stern was born in Johannesburg and moved to Herzliya Pituah with his family in 1973.
Dana Milner was born to Israeli parents in Kampala, Uganda, where her father was working as an engineer on behalf of the Israeli government. The Milners subsequently returned to their Herzliya Pituah home and enrolled their daughter in kindergarden.
Steven and Dana quickly became friends, a friendship strong enough to withstand his family's move to America two years later. They corresponded from the time they knew how to write, but there were periods when they fell out of touch.
Steven visited Israel when he was 15 to attend the bar mitzva of a cousin who lived next door to Dana, and their friendship was rekindled.
Dana and Steven renewed their correspondence, and when Steven graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1994, his parents offered him an overseas trip. He told them he wanted to visit Israel, to visit Dana and "see if there was anything more than friendship there," said his mother, Maureen Stern, Thursday.
He returned home with a surprise: Dana. The two were married in the US a year later in a civil ceremony, and then under a huppa in Herzliya Pituah in 1996. The couple returned to America, where they lived for 11 years and raised two daughters, Mika, 6, and Zoe, 5.
That is, until Thursday, when the Stern family made aliya. The plan to live in Ramat Gan.
"I've been waiting 11 years for this moment," said Dana at the Nefesh B'Nefesh arrival ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport.
She said that "especially for my children, I'm beside myself that they will be here, surrounded by their family, as a long-term thing."