The Author


“Oh, I was once young and idealistic like you. You’ll lose it too,” I was told. But I resolved to never lose that passion, that desire to live in Israel.

Meet Nili Laiman.

Growing up in Toronto, Nili was my neighbor when my family moved to 22 Bainbridge in 1970. I was six years old. My family’s wide split-level bungalow was right next door to a religious family, “The Laimans,” who had three beautiful daughters.

Their youngest daughter, Shelly,, was a little bit younger than me; Orna, a few years older, and Nili, seven years my senior. Our parents were good friends, and the Laimans were wonderful neighbors. Orna and Nili babysat my sister and me. Shelly was my playmate.

The Laimans moved when I was 10 years old, but our parents remained good friends, intertwined with a beautiful group of social friends. While I didn’t grow up close to the Laimans once they moved, our lives would touch every so often, and there was always a warmth and closeness. In fact, when my daughters went to the (religious Zionist) Ulpanat Orot high school, Shelly was their art teacher, and Shelly and I would marvel at the full circle of her being teaching my close-to-adult daughters.

This past week, Nili was coming to Raanana, where I live, and asked if she could stay at my house. I was excited to have her. We chat on Facebook from time to time and admire one another from afar. But there was a certain discussion that I have wanted to have with her for 40 years! I wanted to talk to her about a conversation that we had in 1984, after my very first trip to Israel.

Susie Eklove Nili Laiman

Lighting their Chanukah candles, childhood neighbors Susie Eklove (l) and Nili Laiman lost touch over the years but reunited in Israel, where they both live, each realizing her own dream of Aliyah. (Courtesy)

I was a bit nervous to bring up the incident, as I wasn’t sure how she would take it, so I raised it up gingerly, and it turned into a beautiful discussion. I asked her if I could write about the story, and she agreed. Thank you, Nili! I hope this will be helpful to someone.

I was 19 years old and had just returned from Israel. It was a 10-month trip that left me passionately committed to living in Israel. I came home on fire, like my eyes had just been opened, finding some new piece of my identity, a connection to the land and the people – an idealism that I had never known was possible.

But my love for my parents called. How could I leave them? In September, I began my studies at York University, which was filled with many familiar faces, one of which was Nili Laiman, who at the time was an instructor in the business school.

‘I was heartbroken’

The halls of the campus’s Central Square encompassed an area where many people would congregate. Various vendors would come and sell their wares, and one day, I bumped into Nili at one of these tables. Excited to see one another, we began to catch up, and I told her about my yearning to be in Israel and how I wanted to move there.

And then she replied, saying something that I never forgot: “Oh, I was once young and idealistic like you. You’ll lose it too.”

I was heartbroken, and I felt deflated, but in my mind, I resolved to never lose that passion or idealism.

Nili had married young and already had children when she made her balloon-popping comment to me. I had no idea what it meant to be a young mother who was also going to school. I didn’t know what was happening in her life.

I went about mine, going to school, working, and keeping my passion alive by visiting Israel between school years. I would earn enough money every spring by standing downtown at Bay and Bloor Streets selling eel-skin wallets and purses, making enough to get on a plane and cover my trip. I went every spring/summer for another couple of years and then met my husband at university.

Then life got busy. I got married, my parents got older, children were born, we had to make big decisions, financial pressures and all kinds of responsibilities set in. Raising children wasn’t easy; in short, life got into “Hamster Wheel Mode,” and although much of life was beautiful, we were experiencing the usual hardships that young families face.

The dream to make Aliyah [immigration to Israel] always stayed in the forefront, but practically, it didn’t seem possible during those days. I never lost my idealism, but we felt very “planted” and “rooted” where we were. Nili’s words were a challenge to me, never to lose my idealism, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t. As time went on, it was painful not to realize my dream.

Eleven years ago, I heard that Nili was making Aliyah. So, she had never really lost her idealism; she was just planted in her own life, raising her children and going through whatever she was going through.

Waiting for the right moment

She had divorced from her husband and remarried. They decided to move to Israel. Funnily enough, she bought a house up north. I had actually seen the listing as I continued to fantasize about moving to Israel, and I saw this enchanting house on a beautiful piece of land. I showed the ad to my husband, but we were not yet ready to move. Later on, I found out that Nili had bought that house!

I was so happy when I heard that she made Aliyah. It affirmed to me the idea that idealism doesn’t have to die or get lost. Sometimes, the passion and dream are still there, but we just are not in the place to realize it yet. It’s not our idealism that dies, rather, we are just so heartbroken by our perception that we can’t have what we really want, and so we tell ourselves that we don’t really want it, because not having it hurts so much.

Three and half years ago, my husband and I finally made Aliyah. At long last, we got here! Many times, I thought to myself, “See Nili! I didn’t lose my idealism! I made it, Baruch Hashem (thank G-d).

True Chanukah miracle

Nili had no idea that I had been carrying her comment with me for the past four decades, but I decided to tell her the night she slept over, on the fourth night of Chanukah.

chanukah candles


We say things to people, and do things to and for people, having no idea of where it goes and how it touches them and impacts their lives. We can try to be sensitive towards others, but at the end of the day, we are just human, and we can’t possibly know how something will affect another. Nili’s comment touched me deeply and formed a memory and a resolve that perhaps fueled me, like a challenge, never to lose my idealism and to keep my dream alive.

Now that I am more mature, I also understand that sometimes a dream needs to wait for the right moment to be realized. One never knows what another person is going through, what responsibilities and hardships they may have that are holding them back from what they truly desire and yearn for in life.

Being together with Nili, in Israel, lighting Chanukah candles outside, in front of my house, knowing that we both live here, felt like a true Chanukah miracle.

Never let go of your dreams! They may take time to come true but hang on to your passions and your idealism! Let those values guide you and lead you!

Shalom from the beautiful land of Israel!

Nili Laiman made Aliyah over 11 years ago to Yavne’el, a small farming village in the Galilee. She runs a Bed & Breakfast, Nili’s Place, hosting people from Israel and around the world.

Article by Susie Stearn Eklove

Susan (Susie) Stearn Eklove was born in 1964 and raised in Toronto, Canada with her older brother, younger sister and Holocaust survivor parents. After graduating high school, Susie decided to spend a year in Israel and fell in love with her homeland. She returned to Canada, where she met her husband Harley, and they had five children, but the desire to move to Israel burned strongly. Three of their children made Aliya after high school year, and in August 2019, Susie and Harley finally realized their dream and made Aliya. Since arriving in Israel, Susie has been brushing up on her Hebrew skills, playing with her grandchildren and writing about the miracles she experiences in the Land of Israel.