#Meet_the_Oleh: Ariana Sonsino
Aliyah Date: September, 2020
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Current City: Jerusalem
For many Jews across the globe, Israel is simply a nice idea; It is a dreamy, faraway bubble of hummus and Bamba.
For too many, Israel doesn’t become a reality until the jarring reality of the surrounding world becomes clear. For centuries, Jews have been wandering, always searching for a home. And while antisemitism continues to rage across the world, Israel continues to stand strong as a safe home for the Jewish nation.
A few years ago, Ariana Sonsino of San Antonio, Texas, saw this reality for herself. Spending four years studying fine arts in the University of Texas, BDS and antisemitism was all around her. Although she grew up in a Zionist household with a strong Jewish identity, it wasn’t until she left the Jewish bubble of childhood that she experienced the scary reality that the Jewish nation faces today. Quickly, her focus began to shift, as her passion for Israel advocacy began to emerge, and her love of Judaism became even clearer.
It was during her years in university that Ariana came to Israel on Birthright, and experienced a whole new Israel that she never knew existed. The country. The people. The food. Even the Israeli soldier she met staffing her trip (who she is still seeing today)! Instantly, Israel became her new love, and even while back in America, she made sure to keep Israel at her center. Ariana became more involved in the Jewish community on campus, and came back to Israel whenever possible.
As her studies were coming to an end, Ariana heard about the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program, one which would allow her to spend 10 months teaching in Israel, and living as an Israeli. So she picked up in 2019 and came to teach English in Bat Yam, Israel. And although Covid came and halted much of the world around her, Ariana stayed in Israel, determined to keep going.
It was Hanukkah two years ago when she first had her “Aliyah moment”; that moment of clarity- that inner knowing deep within the heart- that Israel is the place to be. Walking through the busy, winter streets of Tel Aviv, Ariana heard the voices of Hanukkah songs all around her, and saw the light of the menorahs peering through all the windows.
In that moment, she knew she was home.
“As a Jew in the US, I always felt like a guest visiting. Finally, here in Israel, I have found a home. And so has every other Jew.”
Ariana began the Aliyah process while teaching with Masa, and eventually made Aliyah from within Israel, in September 2020.
Today, she lives in Jerusalem, and yes, is still dating her Israeli soldier (although not a soldier anymore)! Ariana began her Israeli career with Masa Israel, the very organization that helped her make this dream a reality. Now she spends her days helping others make their way to Israel too! Her younger brother is now living here as well, serving in the Israeli army.
And while Israel will always be Ariana’s home, picking up and moving here definitely didn’t come without its challenges.
“Israel was always this magical place in my head. No flaws. The ideal. But when I moved here and began real life, I quickly remembered that just like any other place, it comes with real challenges. Of course, the bureaucracy is probably the hardest thing. My biggest challenge was the bank. Without the language, things become tricky.”
Ariana advises new olim to begin fostering their own inner Israeli chutzpah!
“You must take initiative here, and even bring out a little bit of aggression sometimes! In Israel, you don’t get so far waiting in lines. You have to fight for yourself, and be your own biggest advocate.”
But don’t let the rough exteriors fool you. Underneath it all, Israelis are some of the warmest people you will ever meet, and that is Ariana’s favorite part- aside from the shakshuka!
“The nation has been through so much, especially in the past year, with covid and very real security threats. But in those times of need, we only became closer. The sense of unity and togetherness is felt throughout the people, and is something you do not find anywhere else.”
It’s simple. In Israel, we are family.
Check out Ariana's New Years message from Masa Israel!