Israel veterans: Stop being a spectator...

... and get into the game!

 TANYA ROSENBLATT MARCIANO (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Spending seven consecutive summers attending the Zionist Camp Hatikvah in Vancouver, Canada did not fully prepare Tanya Rosenblatt Marciano for the reality of being in Israel. She came for the first time on a family trip. “It was a whirlwind. We saw everything from the Golan to Eilat. Actually seeing the reality when you’re 14 years old is an eye-opening experience,” she recalled.
“The intensity of the country was the first thing to hit me. It was December, so it wasn’t so hot, but the non-stop action was really an eye-opener. There was part of me that felt at home for the first time and I was too young to understand it. It was too much to take in. It was surreal.
“We had come to see my sister and brother-in-law, their baby and their community. I immediately fell in love with Efrat when I was 14: the environment, the way people treated you, someone you barely know welcoming you into their home.
“Something awoke inside of me during that trip,” she acknowledged.
The following summer, Marciano returned to Israel with a Young Judaea trip. Back then, she noted, “the goal was to get their kids to make aliyah. Now it’s to support Israel. I was lucky enough to be a part of it when the goal was to get kids to make aliyah.”
She didn’t connect yet to Israel religiously, but “through my Zionism, I definitely connected. This light went off saying ‘This is where you belong.’”
Though her paternal grandparents “got out of Poland just before the war” and were active members in the Jewish community in Vancouver, her family was primarily “busy trying to assimilate and be good Canadians. They were trying to forget what happened. Religiosity was just a [small] part of our lives.”
“My mother and grandmother were presidents of the local Vancouver chapter of Hadassah and my grandparents were very involved in building the local Talmud Torah. They were always involved in anything that had to do with Israel.
“Although my parents were not religious, my father was the top allergist, not only in Vancouver, but in Canada, and he gave so much of his time and energy to his patients. So although they weren’t religious in the sense of following Shabbat or kashrut, they taught us to be good people and about giving back. My father’s values stuck with me. He was known as such a good and gentle man and would do anything for anyone in need,” she recounted.
Despite the undeniable inspiration she felt while in Israel, she returned to Western Canada and it was “back to school, back to reality. You get this bug in Israel, but it goes away. I suppressed it. I think it happens to many people who feel the light when they come here.”
In 1995, Marciano had another significant experience in Israel. “My brother-in-law took me to a protest when the government was going to give back [one of the hills of Efrat]. That had such an impact on me, standing there on that hill. When the government was talking about taking the [hill] back and giving it over to the Arabs, I was part of the protest to save it.”
The Second Intifada began while Marciano was a university student. “I became obsessed with the news,” she recalled.
Around this time, a family member got quite sick and Marciano returned to Israel to help out. She recalled being “in shock from how people came to help” her family member. It was, she recounts, “a short trip, but very spiritual. I was very lucky that when I went back to Vancouver, I had wonderful rabbis who guided me in the right direction.”
She was encouraged return to Israel to study Torah. After university, she enrolled at Midreshet Rachel in Jerusalem. “I was lucky enough to connect to Rabbi David Sedley. He was one of the more influential rabbis I had,” she noted.
After a year, Marciano was at a crossroad. “I wasn’t really sure what was next. Should I stay in Israel? Go back to Western society, get a job and move on?”
Her answer came in the form of news that Young Judaea was hiring. The catch was that they wouldn’t hire anyone who hadn’t made aliyah.
So she did.
“I made aliyah in August 2006. It was the summer of the Second Lebanon War. I met my future husband that Hanukkah.” Though she was certain there was “no way I’m going to marry an Israeli,” the couple was engaged by Lag Ba’omer and married in 2007.
In 2008, her husband Amir had a business opportunity in Vancouver, so the young family moved to Canada. Despite the fact that, according to Marciano, “the assimilation rate was skyrocketing and it was very difficult to be religious in Vancouver,” their return to Israel kept getting pushed off by family and business considerations.
Their wake-up call came loud and clear in the summer of 2014 when the three boys (Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah) were kidnapped and murdered. “I found myself very isolated. I took it so hard.” She realized that there was an important difference between herself and her neighbors, who weren’t as impacted by the kidnapping and murders as she was.
By this time, the Marcianos had five children. Something Rabbi Avi Berman said to them when he was visiting Vancouver from Israel, made everything clear. “Hashem gave you five neshamot (souls),” he said. “It’s time you come home with them.”
The decision was made so quickly, there wasn’t time to find suitable housing in Efrat, so they lived in Moshav Mevo Beitar temporarily, until they found a home in Efrat.
“Even my second time around, making aliyah was tough. Even though I have an Israeli husband to fight bureaucracy, it’s hard and you can’t sugar coat it. You have to wake up each morning and say ‘I’m going for it! Those first couple of years are hard, but you get through them. You’re here for a reason. And nothing good comes easy.”
In preparation for returning to Israel, she searched for something she could do “without perfect Hebrew. Growing up, I was always very active with anything that had to do with working out.” So she became a certified fitness instructor and, eight months after her sixth child was born, Marciano opened a Barre studio in her home.
“Barre is a combo of pilates, yoga and strength training,” Marciano explained. “It’s an amazing, full body workout for any age.” Today, she teaches 10 classes a week and works with private clients in Jerusalem.
“Once you make that switch in your mind that you’re here and you’re going to make it work, you see the good more than the bad. I’m very blessed that I have a successful business.
“You have to stay focused. Issues pop up. You have to keep your eye on the ball. You get so many curve balls thrown at you all day long. You’re doing this for your family’s future, for your children’s future.
“It’s very important to build a support system when you’re here,” she advised. “Find your good friends. We’re so lucky to live in Efrat. It is the best community in Israel. The acceptance of everyone here is the beauty of Efrat.”
Marciano encourages people to make aliyah by saying, “Stop being a spectator and get into the game!”
“In my opinion, you can’t be a religious Zionist Jew and not live in Israel,” she concluded.