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(photo credit: Meredith Price)
A few months before Susi Doring, 25, decided to move to Israel with her fiance', Tsiki Eyal, Susi Doring got the devastating news of her father's death. Doring was living in Thailand at the time working for the Peace Corps, so she flew home to Tulsa for her father's funeral.
"After my father died in March, I quit the Peace Corps and made plans to move to Israel with Tsiki in August," says Doring, who returned to Thailand to say goodbye to her village in April.
"At the time, Tsiki was doing reserve duty in Hebron, and I told him to be careful. I had death on my mind after losing my father, and I told him I could not survive losing him, too," Doring says. "He laughed and told me that would never happen, that he would just be playing video games and that I shouldn't worry."
A few days after she arrived in Thailand, Doring got a phone call from Tsiki's family. He had been shot in the head by friendly fire after a Palestinian taxi driver ran an IDF check-point.
"I don't know exactly what happened, just that he was shot accidentally by another soldier in his unit," says Doring. "After I got that call, a Peace Corps doctor gave me some serious sedatives so I could get on a plane. I was on my way to Israel within three hours."
Doring, who had visited Israel before with Tsiki, arrived in April 2005 for his funeral and decided to stay.
"I went to Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem for five months," says Doring. "I got a stipend from a Jewish organization headed by an incredibly altruistic man, Levy Lauer, and I lived with Tsiki's family until this February. Now I know what it's like to have Jewish parents," she laughs, joking that her adoptive Israeli parents worry about everything.
"Tsiki's mom calls to make sure I'm eating enough, that I feel well and that my refrigerator is full," says Doring.
Born in El Paso, Doring moved to Germany with her family when she was three years old. The family returned to the US when Doring was seven and she grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Doring studied German and organizational communications at the University of Tulsa and then applied for the Peace Corps.
"I wanted a real job, but I also wanted to travel. I needed someone to pay for my ticket, and indulging in another culture seemed like fun," says Doring.
After her acceptance she was slated to work in Africa, but a last minute change brought her to Thailand instead. Stationed in Chiang Rai near the Burmese border, Doring says she got interested in the huge problem with human trafficking and enjoyed her work. It was in Thailand that she met Tsiki, who was traveling after the army.
Doring's father was from Berlin and her mother was born in the Pangisinan Province of Thailand.
"My parents were pen pals for a few years before they married," says Doring, whose mother moved from Bolinao City in the Philippines to Chicago to marry Doring's father in the 1970s. Doring has one older brother who works as an engineer in Manhattan.
Baptized Lutheran, Doring was raised Catholic. Currently in the process of an Orthodox conversion with a rabbi in Bnei Brak, Doring says she finds great comfort in Judaism.
"I am very attracted to the philosophy behind Judaism," says Doring. "I'm learning the Torah and how to keep kosher and respect Shabbat, and there's something very logical about taking a day of rest and following certain rules. It keeps me from going off the deep end."
Doring works at the ICQ headquarters as a content and promotions manager in marketing.
"I started out in quality assurance, but within a month I heard about this promotion internally, and I wanted to be in marketing so I applied for the job and got it," says Doring, who started working in February.
Between work at a hi-tech company, conversion classes and ulpan, Doring jokes that only a few hours remain to ride buses, eat, sleep and accomplish everything else.
"Finding time to get contacts and go to the doctor is a challenge," says Doring. "But I do sometimes make it down to the beach, usually on Friday mornings after a night out."
Every other Saturday she spends with Tsiki's family in Mazkeret Batya, and on Friday nights she brings in Shabbat with modern Orthodox friends from the Anglo community.
Doring shares a cozy apartment with an Irish friend in the center of Tel Aviv. Though she officially rented the apartment in July of last year, Doring lived with Tsiki's family in Mazkeret Batya until recently.
Among the minimal decorations in the living room is a long, wooden frame with three photographs of Doring posing with her mother and grandmother. Doring says that although the apartment is small, she is so rarely at home that it hardly matters. "I didn't get a pension for coming here," she jokes.
"Before everything, I was really into boxing and traveling," says Doring. "I still do a lot of reading and writing. I keep a blog online that I call my 'grief' blog so that my friends and family understand where I really am even though I sound fine on the phone."
For Doring, Tsiki's best friends have become like brothers here in Israel. She says that having them here has been an amazing gift, but she has also made many friends on her own within the Anglo community and through a group of girlfriends of fallen soldiers.
A native speaker of English, Doring also speaks German and some Thai.
"One time at a meeting in the Peace Corps, I thought my Thai was terrible until I realized that there are many dialects and they weren't speaking the one I knew," says Doring, who learned enough Thai to communicate when she was based in Northern Thailand.
Doring is currently attending Ulpan Gordon to learn Hebrew, but says she finds it challenging and says her Hebrew is really poor.
"I wouldn't say I'm Israeli, but I feel a deep attachment to this place," says Doring. "A part of me is intertwined with Israel, and I don't know why it happened. I can't explain it, but it involves something bigger than me, so I'm just jumping on that wave, accepting fate with a mixture of tragedy and humor, like a character in a dark comedy."
"I want to be a rock star and start a small revolution with tutus and mangoes," says Doring, a big smile across her face. She explains that what she refers to as her "catch phrase" originated in Thailand.
"In the Peace Corps, we weren't allowed to be political, so one day as a joke I said my lecture to the community was going to cover 10 easy steps to starting a revolution and they took me seriously," Doring explains, imitating the shocked Thai group leader. "Today, it's what I tell people when they ask about the future because it makes no sense."
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