Moshav Taoz was founded by Yemenite refugees in 1950 and later repopulated by Indian Jewish immigrants. Known by tourists for its biking trails and natural beauty, it offers nearby access to the famous Stalactite caves and the BIblical Museum of Natural History. Belev Echad has been helping its residents discover their Judaism for several years.
Shai dropped his army rucksack onto the bus seat and sighed. It was never fun to say goodbye to his family after a weekend home.
Not to his mother, who fussed and clucked over him like a worried mother hen. Nor to his brothers, who were some of his best friends.
This time, however, the hardest goodbye had been to his girlfriend, Noa.
From the first time they’d met a few years before, he and Noa had just – clicked. She was kind, fun, supportive, and he cherished their relationship.
But he was also growing stronger in his Judaism, and he knew something had to change.
Two years before, secular Shai and his buddies hadn’t expected to make such good friends with the black-hatted Belev Echad madrichim on their Moshav. But the madrichim were mean soccer players.
The relationships that started on the pitch slowly moved into the moshav’s community center, where the madrichim introduced the boys to Torah learning.
Shai loved the Torah classes. He was a truth-seeker by nature, and he drank up his madrichim’s teachings. His faith and passion for Judaism started to blossom. When he was ready, Eli, his madrich, helped him take some baby steps toward mitzvah observance.
Then it was time to start army service. Shai was not looking forward to the fight that lay ahead of him – trying to grow spiritually in the incredibly unconducive army environment. And he indeed found himself fighting. But he also found his new relationship with Judaism to be extremely helpful.
The challenges of being a soldier – physical, mental, and emotional – were more intense than any he’d experienced before. His faith, sense of priorities, and the constant support of his Belev Echad madrich helped him deal with them from a healthier, more empowered place.
Now, nearly two years into his service, he was balancing army life with Shabbat observance, thrice-daily prayers, and more. It wasn’t easy, but having Eli and other Belev Echad guides to call for guidance or encouragement made all the difference. Shai was excited to keep moving forward in his observance – but dreading what that might mean for his relationship with Noa.
Over the weekend, he’d tried to find the right time to talk things out with her. She’d been very supportive of his religious journey, seeking out her own Belev Echad girls’ classes and taking on some mitzvot herself.
Shai knew he wasn’t exactly going to take her by surprise. But he still couldn’t bring himself to open the conversation.
That night, when he had some downtime, he called Eli. “I don’t know what to do about Noa.”
Eli, who’d heard from him before about the topic, listened quietly while Shai poured out his heart.
“This isn’t who I want to be anymore. I want to live according to my values. But the thought of saying goodbye to Noa… I don’t want to think about it.”
Eli stayed thoughtfully quiet for a moment or two. “Shai. You feel very close to Noa, right?”
“You respect her. You appreciate her. You agree on the important things in life.”
“Have you thought about asking her to get married?”
Shai exhaled. “I can’t say I haven’t thought about it. But… We’re so young. I’m still in the army. I can’t see her being ready for that kind of thing.”
“What about you?” Eli asked gently. “Do you feel ready for that kind of thing?”
“I… I’m not sure.”
“Maybe it’s something to think about.”
Shai thought about it. Intensely. It took almost until his next leave to decide he was ready to take this brave step. He hoped Noa would be ready to take it with him.
As it turned out, she was.
The wedding was beautiful. Shai and Noa made a fairytale couple – even though they knew they weren’t headed for a smooth fairytale ending. Shai had to spend weeks at a time away from their new home, busy with army duties.
It wasn’t easy for either of them. The bumps in the road were discouraging. But Belev Echad rallied around them, offering every kind of support.
Now, army days behind them, Shai and Noa are building a beautiful, Torah-true family. And they credit their greater Belev Echad family for helping them make the choices that have filled their lives with blessing.