Elie Schiff will tell you flat out that she was born into a family of Zionists. As far back as she can remember, her parents taught her to love Israel, and in 2014 both her brother and sister made aliyah in the middle of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip.
A few months after learning of the brutal murder of mother-of-six Dafna Meir in the Jewish religious yishuv of Otniel by a Palestinian terrorist in January 2015, Schiff decided she could no longer put off making Israel her home.
“Just hearing [Meir’s] story strengthened my commitment and definitely accelerated the process,” the 23-year-old Schiff said. “I connected with her so fully, both of us being nurses, that I really needed to be [in Israel] sooner than later. I kept thinking, if I can continue her legacy and contribute to Israel as best I can, that’s what I want to do.”
Schiff, a graduate of Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, completed her nursing degree at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore last December — then called off her job hunt in the U.S. and kicked her aliyah process into high gear. She let Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization coordinating aliyah for 4,000 North Americans each year, know that she had decided to dedicate her aliyah to Meir.
“It just felt so right, and I hoped by honoring [Meir’s] memory in this way it might inspire others to make aliyah,” she said, explaining that she asked the staff of Nefesh B’Nefesh to reach out to Meir’s family members to let them know how much Meir meant to her, and to ask if she could meet with them.
That meeting became possible when Schiff had only been an Israeli citizen for five days. She met Meir’s widower, Natan Meir, at the Kotel.
It was “the most special day of my life,” Schiff said, describing that hot July day. “To actually meet the husband of the woman who had inspired me like no one else ever has was such an honor.” He invited her to his daughter’s bat mitzvah the following week.