Lone soldiers Yoel Epstein and Alaina Bon-Epstein on their wedding day
Lone soldiers Yoel Epstein and Alaina Bon-Epstein on their wedding day Hodaya Toledano

A special wedding took place Wednesday evening at the Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah Campus in Jerusalem, attended by 200 guests from Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States: Yoel Epstein and Alaina Bon made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) separately from different countries, but both for the same purpose of contributing to the Jewish state. The couple met in Israel and were the first olim (new immigrants) to get married on the rooftop of the Aliyah Campus.

Alaina made aliyah in 2017 from Staten Island, New York, and fulfilled her military service as a combat soldier in the Search and Rescue Brigade. Yoel is the son of Rabbi Daniel Epstein, Rabbi of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue, one of the largest and most prominent communities in the United Kingdom. Yoel returned to Israel in 2018 after living in London with his family for four years and drafted into the IDF, serving as a combat soldier in the Egoz 89th Brigade.

Alaina and Yoel enlisted in the IDF as part of the FIDF-Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program (LSP). With the full support of the IDF, and in cooperation with the Friends of the IDF (FIDF), LSP was established to assist and support the brave young individuals who serve in the IDF, regardless of their country of origin. Today, there are approximately 3,500 active lone soldier olim, serving in a range of positions in the army. LSP offers guidance, support, and care for all lone soldier olim, prior to aliyah, throughout their military service, and after release from the IDF. LSP provides financial aid, emotional support, care packages, and adoptive families to its soldiers, as well.

The couple met at HaBayit Shel Benji, a foundation established in memory of Benji Hillman, a lone soldier who was killed during an operational activity while in reserve service and which aids and support combat soldiers throughout their army service. Last January, Yoel proposed to Alaina, and on Wednesday evening they held their wedding at the Nefesh B’Nefesh Campus in Jerusalem.

"This is an inspiring story of a couple who came from two different continents and, thanks to their deep passion for Zionism and their desire to contribute to the Jewish State, found each other here in Israel," said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. "We are thrilled to celebrate aliyah and our olim through the wedding of Yoel and Alaina, as they begin to plant roots together and establish their own Jewish home in Israel."

"I am so happy about my decision to make aliyah, because it was that decision that led me to my partner for life," said bride Alaina Bon-Epstein. "I am grateful for Nefesh B’Nefesh and every individual who was part of the process of our aliyah and army service."

Yoel, the groom added, "There are many more stories like ours, and I wish for us and all of them a lifetime of joyous moments, good health, and continued Zionism."