In January 2020, soon after I arrived in Tel Aviv, I was walking out of class with a friend when I first saw her. We were in the same Masa Israel Journey program with Aardvark Israel, but we took different classes, had different internships and lived in different buildings.
Abby was speaking Spanish, also accompanied by a friend. I sheepishly introduced myself in Spanish—and to my dismay, she responded in perfect English. We started a fun, light-hearted conversation while the four of us walked through Levinsky Street, with its bright colors, passionate yet pushy salespeople, and the breath of strong Mediterranean fragrances.
We went to a bourekas restaurant and before we knew it, Abby and I got lost in our own conversation. An hour passed without either of us noticing that both our friends had left.
A few weeks later, I was in my apartment. I’d had a long day, and I was very tired. But my six housemates and I invited friends over and Abby showed up with guests invited by one of my housemates.
Despite all the excitement in the apartment, Abby noticed the change in my mood. She approached me to ask, “Is everything okay?” We barely knew each other, but she was there for me. This simple gesture made all the difference to me. I answered her question honestly. It is easy to say that everything is okay when it actually isn’t but there was something about her that made me trust her.
That night, we continued to talk and the noise in the room seemed to fade away. Nothing else and no one else mattered.
This pattern continued wherever we were— we always found a reason to speak and no distractions came between us. Every conversation we had was memorable. Abby radiates positivity and energy, her laugh and gleaming smile never fail to make me smile and our strong, flowing chemistry has been evident since we met.
As the Covid-19 crisis worsened, the lockdown experience deepened our relationship. With in-person activities limited, we felt fortunate to spend more time together, talking for hours and hours in our apartments as if the whole world stood still.
What seemed like coincidental encounters were filled with purpose— not that I knew the meaning of my actions when I first said hello in the hallway or opened the door to her and her friends.
I’m from South Africa and Abby is from Argentina. We came to Israel for similar reasons. We thought that living and working in an environment that differs in almost every aspect from the way of life we’re accustomed to would be refreshing, especially after 12 long years of school.
A year ago, I was in Johannesburg and Abby in Cordoba, divided by continents and with no expectation that we’d ever meet. But while falling in love with Israel, we also fell in love with each other.
Eytan Fainman and Abby Comba are both alumni of Masa Israel Journey, founded by The Jewish Agency and Government of Israel. Today, they still live in Israel. Eytan is a business and entrepreneurship student at Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC). He enjoys politics and philosophy, playing football and making new connections. Abby is a psychology student at Tel Aviv University. She enjoys biology, doing aerial silk acrobatics and meeting new people.
Top photo: The couple on a tiyul, where they hiked Masada.