March 28, 2007 / 9 Nissan 5767
Julia Zverev, 24, is an only child, born to two doctors in the Russian city of Samara. When she was 11, the Jewish Agency opened an activity center in Samara which changed Julia's life.
"I went to every single activity that the Jewish Agency offered," says Julia with enthusiasm. "At first it was the summer camp, which I loved. Then I joined the youth club, learned about and celebrated all the holidays, went to a winter camp, took Hebrew classes and became a youth counselor."
However, it was during her first trip to Israel on the Taglit-birthright israel program that Julia knew that Israel would eventually be her home. "It is one thing to learn about Judaism, Zionism and history in Russia. It is a completely different thing to actually experience the place and meet the people. I felt so deeply connected to the country – my country."
Julia returned to Israel again as a young delegate to the 34th Zionist Congress. "I was 20 years old and the only Russian young person. It was a great."
Like most educated Russians, Julia began college at the age of 17. By the time she was 22, she was already a certified dentist. "I didn't stay in Russia to practice dentistry. I immediately packed my bags for Israel. I knew that this was where I was meant to be."
Although Julia's mother was sad to part from her only child, she knew that Israel offered much more opportunity for her daughter. "Life is better in Israel, and my mother knew this," says Julia.
From the time her plane landed at Ben Gurion Airport, Julia has been on the move, achieving more in two years than many people achieve in a decade. In her determined manner she went straight to the Jewish Agency's Ulpan Etzion, having chosen this idyllic absorption center in the middle of Jerusalem's Baka neighborhood before she made aliyah. "I was the only Russian in my class, among other young professionals from France, America, South Africa, Croatia and Canada. You can bet I learned Hebrew quickly," laughs Julia, speaking a rapid Hebrew that is hardly distinguishable from native Israelis.
Julia then set about getting certified as a dentist. She whipped through the licensing course, and passed both the theoretical and practical exams in record time. Most of her classmates are still waiting to receive their certification.
Although she didn't have to serve in the army, Julia enlisted as a dentist in the professional army. "I'm getting good experience here and I love caring for the soldiers. Many of them look at me and ask me where the dentist is because I look so young."
Julia has also been matched with an Israeli family through the Jewish Agency's At Home Together program. The father is also a dentist and they are like a second family to her. When she became an officer in the army they were there to celebrate with her.
In another six months, Julia is getting married to her teenage sweetheart, Alexei. They met at a Jewish Agency summer camp, and he came to Israel on the Jewish Agency's Na'aleh program for high school students from the former Soviet Union.
"I feel so good in Israel," says Julia. "I may be a lone soldier, but I don't feel lonely. I've done everything I wanted and have never looked back. I found so much promise in our ‘Promised Land'."
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