By: Laurina Driesse

Deciding to leave one’s country is a huge and often daunting step, especially when you are a single parent with a child whose life will be greatly impacted by your decisions.

For Natali, a single Jewish mother from Colombia, weighing up her life-changing options was a two-year process. Facing economic hardship, she finally completed her Aliyah application to move to Israel, despite complications with her son’s father. However, her strong desire to seek a better future for herself and her son propelled her to overcome the hurdles, and she finally arrived in Israel in February 2019.

Feeling extremely blessed to be in Israel, Natali and her son entered an absorption center in Beersheva, where she soon joined a mentorship program for new immigrants sponsored by the ICEJ. The mentors are trained professionals who help each family over the first year-and-a-half as they adjust to Israel. They offer a range of practical advice and assistance – from showing new immigrants how things work in this country or helping them find jobs, to providing support as they overcome barriers and resolve personal issues.

Natali’s mentor Lital has been a lifeline for her, guiding her each step of the way as she has gotten settled into her new homeland. Natali recalled how hard it was to adjust to a new language and job, and to see her son struggling too.

“My son had a hard time to start speaking”, said Natali. “He missed his grandparents. He was crying. He was cranky. It was very difficult for me as a mother… I know that we don’t have control of everything, but I felt like my son was changing a lot and not for the good.”

Thankfully, she could turn to Lital for sound advice and support. Working with Lital, Natali started to focus on how her own feelings impacted her son, too.

“This was a wake-up call. No one ever told me this before and I never thought it was like this,” recalled Natali. “I started doing the exercises Lital was telling me to do, and I started focusing on my emotions, my energy, my body and asked questions to myself which I never thought about before in my life. As I started doing these things, I began to see a change in my son. I thought, ‘Oh, so Lital was right’.”

As Natali began to shift her focus and change her attitudes, life began to improve for both mother and son.

Natali’s time in the mentorship program will soon end, and she expressed great admiration towards her mentor and the program.

“This is what I have learned”, she noted. “To look at your life, and not only blame everybody or blame the government because they don’t give me money. No, it is part and part… The government gives, but you also need to give and to work… and be positive and happy.”

“So, for me, this experience with you guys – I always say this to Lital, and I say it again – ‘It is amazing!’” she said with a smile.

“I will never stop thanking you for this amazing opportunity that you are giving me as a single mother to experience this help. I see others around me who do not have this opportunity… many single moms … What I learn from you, I pass on to them because they also need this help.”

“It is a beautiful job what you do, and my mentor has inspired me to do the same. I want to help people and build them up and to tell them this is not the end. If something bad happened, it does not mean that life stops. No, let’s go, let’s continue, let’s be strong… and this is what I want to do. I want to coach others,” Natali concluded.

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ’s Vice President for AID and Aliyah, explained why the ICEJ has supported this mentoring program ever since it began as a pilot some 14 years ago.

“I love to see the deep impact having a personal mentor makes in the lives of these Jewish immigrants as they seek to re-establish their lives anew and realize their dreams in Israel”, said Nicole. “We have witnessed again and again how stabilizing this assistance is and we are thrilled to do what we can to ensure that immigrants receive this essential help.”

Please consider partnering with us as we help more Jewish immigrants get a jump-start as they begin their new lives in Israel. A gift of $2,750 enables a brand-new Israeli immigrant less than a year in the country to enjoy the supportive care of a mentor, whereas aiding immigrants who are a little longer in the country but who have fallen into distress generally requires a larger investment of $5,500. Thank you for helping us ensure that there are professional mentors available for newcomers to Israel like Natali and her son.