Every year, the Bnei Akiva movement sends hundreds of emissaries to Jewish communities around the world. Their official goal is to encourage the community members to make aliyah and strengthen their Jewish identity, but apparently that's not the only thing.
One of the most popular destinations among the emissaries is the city of Perth in Western Australia – not necessarily for its unique landscape or climate, but mostly due to the fact that in the past six years as many as five men and women returned to Israel with a local bride or groom.
The first to see the matchmaking potential was emissary Alon Shalev, who landed in Australia in 2008, filled with ideals and a desire to get married. He met the local Liora Schwartz, and when he returned home she accompanied him to settle down in Israel.
Royi Bercovici arrived in Perth from Jerusalem the following year, only to return home a year later with Aimee Braude. The two married and had a son. "I wanted to immigrate to Israel even before I met Royi," says Aimee, "but he convinced me to come to Israel earlier than I had planned, and it was clearly worth it."
Ariela Klein of Rehovot married Perth resident Simon Kosowitz. She arrived in the city in late 2009 and met Simon during one of the activities she organized.
"We met on a Saturday afternoon at the synagogue," she says. "I told him straight away that I was planning to return to Israel, and he agreed. An important part of our match was his agreement and desire to make aliyah."
According to Simon, the community's young members usually move to Melbourne or immigrate to Israel. He had initially intended on moving to the big city, but the encounter with Ariela changed his plans.
There are also cases of emissaries who marry other emissaries, like Elisha Ernest and Chaya Friedman, who got to know each other during the year they spent in the remote continent and returned to Israel as a couple; or Ori Friedmann, who served as an emissary on behalf of another organization in 2011, and Aviva Levitt who arrived a year later on behalf of Bnei Akiva.
"We met after returning to Israel," says Aviva. "We were at a party in Jerusalem and recognized each other from the pictures of the emissaries hanging at the community center in Perth."
Ori and Aviva will tie the knot soon, bringing the number of married couples to five. This number is not final yet, as at least two other emissaries from the past two years are in a relationship with Jewish girls from the Australian city.
The Jewish community in Perth has some 8,000 members, but only 150 religious families. The demand for assignments in Australia remains relatively high among Bnei Akiva emissaries, and is likely to grow even more once the rumor about the city's merits is spread.