In the Jewish religion if someone immigrates to Israel, it’s called making Aliyah. Literally translated to mean ascent, it’s when some chooses to return to and live in their religious homeland.
I just learned that Long Grove resident Mariel Ackerman, who graduated from Stevenson High School in 2005, Indiana University in 2009 and Rush University Medical Center is 2011, has made her Aliyah and now calls Israel her home.
During grad school she went on a Birthright trip which is a free, first-time, peer group trip to Israel for Jewish young adults. That’s where she must’ve caught the bug because Mariel wanted to go back to Israel, for longer than 10 short days. When she graduated from Rush with a degree in Health Systems Management, she went on a program called Masa Career Israel where she worked with African refugee women who were pregnant and in need of pre-natal care or abortions.
This was a defining time for Mariel. “I met people that will be some of my best friends for the rest of my life, I traveled a lot, and I learned a lot," she said. "When the program was over, I decided I wanted to stay and got an apartment with two of my best girl friends from Career Israel. Of the hundred people in the program, there are 25 of us that live in Israel today.”
Surprisingly, Mariel says she hasn’t got any more religious since living in Israel. In her opinion, “They don't distinguish the separation between Israel and Judaism the way that we do in the states. There is a large divide between the very religious and the secular.”
She struggles with the basics like trying to find the non-kosher restaurants where she can get a bacon cheeseburger or a chicken Caesar salad. She’d love to walk into a market and find Kraft mac-n-cheese! She also admits to having problems with the Israeli level of customer service, which she says it’s very different than in Chicago. She gets frustrated that simply asking for ice in your water is a big deal!
As far as feeling safe in Israel, Mariel says, “I have never felt unsafe here. Not for one minute. I don’t think twice before getting on a bus, shopping in an Arab market, or walking through the old city in Jerusalem. A lot of what you hear in the states is media hype.”
Mariel lives in Tel Aviv, only two blocks from the beaches of the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea with three other Americans. One is in the Israeli army and the other two are getting their master's degrees at the Tel Aviv University. Fortunately, Mariel has found an amazing job working for an awesome company called d&a Visual Insights. “I do business intelligence and consulting in the life science, medical and healthcare industries,” she explains.
Luckily for Mariel, almost everyone speaks English and she can understand Hebrew when spoken to. It’s her own speaking of Hebrew she’s continuing to work on as she settles into her life abroad. Her greatest gift while there would be to entertain and have visitors from home!
Mariel is on quite an adventure and I wish her the best of luck. Shalom, Mariel!
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