First Lone Soldier Wedding Hosted at Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah Campus in Jerusalem

Yoel Epstein and Alaina Bon made Aliyah separately from different countries, and they are the first Olim to get married on the rooftop of the Aliyah Campus. 

 Nbn wedding (photo credit: HODAYA TOLEDANO)
Nbn wedding
(photo credit: HODAYA TOLEDANO)

A unique wedding was held this past Wednesday evening at the Nefesh B'Nefesh Aliyah Campus in Jerusalem, attended by 200 guests from Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. Yoel Epstein and Alaina Bon made Aliyah separately from different countries, both for the same purpose of contributing to the Jewish state. The couple are the first Olim to get married on the rooftop of the Aliyah Campus. 

Alaina made Aliyah in 2017 from Staten Island, New York, and fulfilled her military service as a combat soldier in the Search and Rescue Brigade. Yoel is the son of Rabbi Daniel Epstein, Rabbi of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue, one of the largest and most prominent communities in the United Kingdom. Yoel returned to Israel in 2018 after living in London with his family for four years and drafted into the IDF, serving as a combat soldier in the Egoz 89th Brigade. 

Alaina and Yoel enlisted in the IDF as part of the FIDF-Nefesh B'Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program (LSP). With the full support of the IDF and in cooperation with the Friends of the IDF (FIDF), the Lone Soldiers Program was established to assist and support individuals who serve in the IDF, regardless of their country of origin. Today, approximately 3,500 lone soldiers are serving in a range of positions in the army. LSP offers guidance, support, and care for all lone soldier Olim, prior to aliyah, throughout their military service, and after release from the IDF. In addition, the program provides financial aid, emotional support, care packages and adoptive families to its soldiers. 

The couple met at HaBayit Shel Benji, "the Home" for lone combat soldiers in Israel, part of the Benji Hillman Foundation, which aids and supports combat soldiers throughout their army service. The foundation was established in memory of Benji Hillman, and oleh from England who became a company commander in the elite Egoz commando unit and was killed in the Second Lebanon War. After his parents learned at the shiva how he had taken special care of his lone soldiers, such as always making sure they had a place to spend Shabbat, they created the foundation to continue his work. 

Last January, Yoel proposed to Alaina, and on Wednesday evening, they held their wedding at the Nefesh B'Nefesh Campus in Jerusalem.  

"This is an inspiring story of a couple who came from two different continents and, thanks to their deep passion for Zionism and their desire to contribute to the Jewish State, found each other here in Israel," said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B'Nefesh. "We are thrilled to celebrate Aliyah and our Olim through the wedding of Yoel and Alaina as they begin to plant roots together and establish their own Jewish home in Israel."

"I am so happy about my decision to make aliyah, because it was that decision that led me to my partner for life," said bride Alaina Bon-Epstein. "I am grateful for Nefesh B'Nefesh and every individual who was part of the process of our Aliyah and army service." Yoel, the groom added, "There are many more stories like ours, and I wish for us and all of them a lifetime of joyous moments, good health, and continued Zionism."