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“Your people will be my people, and your God, my God”(Ruth 1:16)

“Your people will be my people, and your God, my God”(Ruth 1:16)
Ruth spoke these words to her mother-in-law Naomi and this sentence fits me like a glove.
Yes, I wish your people become my people and Yes I will embrace the Jewish faith and Your G-d will be My G-d.
Where does this wish, or better urge, come from?
I would like to take you on a journey, a journey through my life. A true story that began 45 years ago and with the help of G-d, the journey will become longer and even more beautiful.
From the early years Israel was always in my life. The golden Menorah on our windowsill, the David star as a peak in our Christmas tree and the enormous love my grandparents had for Israel. Many times they went to Israel and their friends became my parents friends and vice versa.
I remember when I was a child, I could watch the pictures of Israel my grandfather had taken and the incredible stories he told me about this, in my eyes, magical country.
Many, many times I asked them to take me with them to Israel and my dream was fulfilled when I was 16.
It became a journey I will never forget. Not only did we see the most amazing things there, my grandfather told me stories about this “land of milk and honey”. We also stayed with my ‘grandparents friends’ and that gave me the opportunity to see the real Jewish life in all its glory. I learned about the Shabbat, the praying, but I also was a witness of the pain from a family after losing a son during an attack.
It was a journey of a lifetime but the best was yet to come, I found out later. At a little place called Kiryat Tivon I met a schoolgirl, a little bit younger than I was but we became friends. Besides the words “ken”, “lo” and “Shalom” I did not talk any Hebrew but it was a meeting I never forget. And in all honesty, meeting this young girl changed my entire life years later.
Years came by and I worked as a volunteer at kibbutz K’far Gilladi for 3 months. It was again an amazing time. During this period I met this young schoolgirl, now a young woman about to get married, again.
I was invited to celebrate Shabbat in her house in Ofaqim. And even I did not understand the rituals or the Hebrew, something happens inside me. I felt at home. And when her father gave me the “bracha” my heart, soul and mind became one. Till this day, I still remember that intense feeling.
Back home I wanted to learn everything about Judaism but life took over. I was working as a professional firefighter in Holland. The first woman ever. It was sometimes hard and difficult, not only because of the work which is physically and mentally heavy but it was also not easy to work in a world only with men. I had to overcome a lot but I loved every minute of it. To help people in trouble when there is a fire, car accident, water accident or even the naughty cat in the tree, gave me such a good feeling. It made me happy.
But there was always this restlessness inside me. I travelled around the world just me and my backpack, I worked a period of time in Africa (Ghana) as a volunteer at an orphans home, but Israel was always under the surface. I kept thinking about the words my grandfather once said: “Barbara’s suitcase is still in Israel”. And he was right.
During my travels I met so many people, learned about other cultures and also I learned a lot about myself.
And always where there Israeli people. I met them everywhere. I became friends with them and this friendships is still very valuable for me. They came to visit me in Holland and I went to visit them in Israel. After many years, I was again in the Promised Land. And again there was this feeling of “coming home”.
Inside me was a fire burning and I knew that this was not just a small fire, no this was a fire from my heart and soul.
And then, I met this young schoolgirl again. This time at Beer Sheva where she lives with her husband and her 5 children. I met her parents again and while I was hugging and kissing everyone (a Sephardic tradition), my heart became open. This was really my home.
I had studied some Ivrit and because I worked sometimes as a volunteer in a Jewish elderly home in the kitchen in Amsterdam. Not only our communication was better but I understood the Laws of Kashrut better. I told them about my wish to become Jewish but that is was difficult to realize it in Holland. Her father and my friend told me to keep faith in G-d.
Back in Holland I tried again and again to find someone to help me with my process of conversion. And all of a sudden I discovered the website of Rav Ahron Daum ( and although I had not met him, I felt my fire inside burning.
Now, I am a student of Rav Daum and yes, I have a long way to go but with his help, his enormous knowledge, his humour and patience I will succeed.
My life changed. I am no longer working as a firefighter, but at the office of the fire brigade with regular hours, so I can keep my Shabbat.
I still want to work with people and help them in anyway. I would like to become a teacher at a school in Israel and become a children’s coach. The G-d of Israel will become my G-d and the people of the nation of Israel will become my people.
With the help of my dear parents, my friends, my mentor Rav Ahron Daum and the Almighty this will happen. This I know for sure.
My grandfather was right all the time: “My suitcase is still in Israel!”
1e Kislev 5776
13 November 2015
Barbara Jochems, Haarlem, the Netherlands

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