Becky Bierman 88 298.
(photo credit: )
'I grew up in a small town near Washington, D.C. and spent a lot of my time playing in the woods and at the swimming hole," Becky Bierman recalls. "I love being outdoors, I've always loved being outdoors."
Now a grown-up, Becky still spends her days outside - working in the strawberry fields of Beit Dagan, near Rishon Lezion, for the Ministry of Agriculture.
"I knew I wanted to study something having to do with biology, and after taking a botany course I was hooked," says Becky, who then went to graduate school in Urbana, Illinois to study agriculture.
"I knew the more I focused my career on agriculture the more I was really focusing my career on aliya, because it's important for me to live in a Jewish community and in America, Jewish communities tend to be in cities - so Israel was my only option."
Both of Becky's parents were born in America, as were her mother's parents, and her father's parents immigrated to the US before the war. Her two younger siblings - a boy and a girl - remain in Maryland with her parents.
"I grew up in a very Zionist family," she says. "And my parents were very supportive of my aliya - they always thought it was a good idea."
"I'd been thinking about making aliya for years," Becky reveals. "Moving to Israel was always an option and something I wanted to do."
She remembers a summer trip to Israel with Bnei Akiva as the time when she really "fell in love with Israel."
"I saw all the different types of Jewish communities here, different from your standard suburban American community which is very nice," she explains, "but not for me."
"There was never a big epiphany moment for me," she relates, "it was a slow, natural process and so it felt like the right thing to do. [Israel] is really the only place I could picture myself living."
A year and a half before she made aliya Becky took a pilot trip to Israel to see if she could make her dream a reality.
"I wanted to see if I could pull it off practically - I was pleased with what I saw and it made everything more realistic."
When she returned home, she contacted a shaliah and began the process of making aliya.
"I was the only person on my plane making aliya so I didn't have to wait on any lines," she recalls of her arrival in July 2004. "A friend of mine came to meet me and a guy from AACI helped me carry my bags. I stayed with friends for a few days and then moved into Ulpan Etzion."
Becky stayed at Ulpan Etzion for five months, where she learned Hebrew and made friends, most of whom are still her friends today.
"It was a very soft landing because you have an instant support system," she says of her time in ulpan, though she admits it's not as easy as it sounds.
"It's a big move. In the beginning it's a bit of a roller coaster, but now thank god I'm feeling more settled."
"I set up my job while I was in ulpan," says Becky, who works for Machon Volcani, a research center in the Ministry of Agriculture.
"Basically, I do research on strawberries," she explains. "We're trying to find new ways to treat a disease of strawberries called powdery mildew, so I spend a lot of my time working in greenhouses - taking care of the strawberries, maintaining the irrigation system, taking off old leaves and checking for bugs."
"I also work in a laboratory and do experiments on strawberry plants to find out if any of the stuff we're testing is good strawberry medicine. I care a lot about the sustainable use of natural resources and food production, so this is a great job for me."
After she finished ulpan, Becky moved out of Jerusalem for a while to be closer to work, which she says was a great experience because "it was more mainstream Israel - it was easier to be in touch with your average Israeli."
But eventually she moved back to the holy city, where she now resides in the San Simon neighborhood, sharing an apartment with two friends she made in ulpan.
Although Becky says she spends most of her time working and taking buses back and forth to Beit Dagan, on Shabbat she has time to herself, and she enjoys making meals with friends.
"I have several good friends from childhood and university who made aliya around the same time as me," Becky says, adding that many of the people she met in ulpan are still part of her core group of friends.
"But everyone I work with is Israeli," she points out, "so I do have some Israeli friends from work."
"I'm very glad that I was so fortunate to be able to find work right away in my field, but it's hard to make a living here. Thank god I'm okay," she concludes, "I have what I need."
Becky says her Hebrew is "very good," though she would like to work on her writing a bit.
"All my work is in Hebrew, which was very difficult in the beginning," she admits, "but now I'm very comfortable and I'm really happy about that."
Calling herself modern Orthodox, Becky says her religion is a very important aspect of her life.
"I feel in a lot of ways that it's much more natural here, you can buy kosher food everywhere, everyone's celebrating the same holidays," she relates. "When I was here for Pessah I was like wow, this must be what it feels like to be Christian in America in December."
"I feel like an Israeli who grew up in America," Becky says. "I feel very comfortable with the culture here, but I didn't grow up here, I didn't go to school here, I didn't go to the army here, so a lot of my ideas are brought from America."
"In a lot of ways I'm always going to be American, but this feels like home."
"Some day down the road I'd like to have a family, I could see myself living in the Galil, raising a bunch of kids in a garden," reveals Becky, "but I'm keeping my options open."
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