Ariel was born and raised in Argentina. After studying at the University in Buenos Aires for three years, Ariel decided to spend his summer vacation backpacking through Europe. He travelled through Spain, Italy, France and Greece with friends he met along the way. The freedom he experienced, together with the different cultures he discovered, aroused an unexpected desire to continue traveling and delay the completion of his studies at the University. The only impeding factor in the pursuit of his plans was his lack of funds.
An Argentinean whose family moved to Israel suggested that Ariel try Eilat. It was an easy place to find work and a nice place to live. Ariel took a boat from Athens to Haifa, and after a few days in Haifa he took a bus to Eilat. He found work, room and board at a hotel, and spent most of his day doing menial work in the hotel’s kitchen. His free time was spent on the beach or on leisurely walks through the town. Eilat is Israel’s party-town. People from all over the world and from Israel go to Eilat to relax and have “fun.”
Rarely is anyone in Eilat dressed in more than shorts and a tee shirt, let alone in a black hat, a black suit and a tie. You can imagine Ariel’s surprise when he saw a man dressed just like that walking down the street in the middle of Eilat. Even more surprising was that the obviously religious gentleman seemed to be approaching him. The man introduced himself as Rabbi Meir Schuster, and asked Ariel if he planned on visiting Jerusalem in the near future. Ariel said he would very much like to visit Jerusalem. Rabbi Schuster smiled warmly and gave Ariel his card.
A few weeks later Ariel arrived in Jerusalem and called Rabbi Schuster. He was directed to the Heritage House Youth Hostel and was pleased to find that the hostel was clean, the people were friendly and the price was right. Rabbi Schuster then found Ariel a family to spend Shabbos with. The husband was Brazilian; the wife, Israeli. They were warm and interesting hosts, who resolved a lot of difficulties Ariel had with Jewish tradition.
After his Shabbos experience he decided he had to know more about his heritage so he enrolled in the Spanish program of a Jerusalem Yeshiva. The program was intensive, and an impressive, beautiful Judaism began to unfold before his eyes. But Ariel discovered that along with the beauty came a great deal of responsibility. Before he made any commitments he wanted some time away from the yeshiva. He spent two months on a kibbutz just outside of Jerusalem before he was sure that he wanted to live his life as a traditional Jew.
All this while Ariel’s parents were anxiously following his progress. When they heard of his decision to study in yeshiva and become observant they were certain he had been seized by some mysterious cult. With the hope of retrieving him from the grasp of his captors they dispatched their daughter to Jerusalem. It happens that the yeshiva where Ariel was studying had a Spanish program for women as well as the one for men. Within a short time after her arrival, Ariel’s sister found that far from being a devious cult, the yeshiva was an open, thoughtful environment, and the people studying there were normal, intelligent and very dedicated. She decided that, like Ariel, she would stay and study at the yeshiva.
Their parents became frantic when they heard of their daughter’s plans, and with the hope of convincing their children of the folly of their decisions, they hurriedly bought plane tickets and flew to Israel. After intense discussions with their children and the Rabbis of the yeshiva, Ariel’s parents began to see what had so attracted their children to religious observance. They not only came to approve of their children’s lifestyle, but upon their return to Argentina they began an intensive study of their tradition with a charismatic young rabbi in Buenos Aires. Ariel’s older brother, upon seeing what had happened to his family’s values, decided that he had to travel to Israel and see for himself what all the fuss was about. He too began intensive Jewish study upon his return to Argentina.
Ariel is presently studying full-time in yeshiva. If you visit his dormitory, don’t be surprised if you find a sign above his door that reads: “Warning! The inhabitant of this room is a shining example of the beauty and obvious authenticity of the traditional Jewish lifestyle. Complacent non-observant Jews may become affected. “