In the fall of last year, Noach Lurman was just starting his third year at University of Maryland where he was studying Biology. Then, October 7 happened and Lurman, with only a year and a half left until graduation, decided to leave the school.

"After Sukkot, I went back to school and was greeted by pro-Hamas protests on campus. It felt like it came out of nowhere. Before, I thought nobody cared that I was Jewish, and now, there was antisemitism all over our school's social media feeds, I saw a Magen David spray painted on a trash can. It was clear to me then that I needed to make aliyah," Lurman said.

Lurman made aliyah with Nefesh B'Nefesh and its partners Israel's Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA and is now residing in Jerusalem where he's taking the rest of the year to take the necessary exams needed in order to get into medical school and Bar-Ilan University.

However, despite the hostile environment on campus, making aliyah was always something lingering in the back of his mind.

Noach Lurman

"I didn't leave only because of antisemitism," he acknowledges. "I mostly left because I wanted a life that had a deeper meaning and I knew I could get that in Israel. After visiting here multiple times, I knew that life here is special."

As such, even before October 7, Lurman had conversations where he spoke with Nefesh B'Nefesh officials and asked how he can pursue his dream of becoming a surgeon in Israel.

Now, Lurman is facing one more year of undergrad at Bar Ilan before he works on getting into medical school. And although he'll have to do it all in Hebrew, he is undeterred.

"Finishing my undergrad in Hebrew will not be easy, but I'm determined to break this barrier. I just have to learn the material and I'll break through," he said.

While he has a long journey ahead of him - medical school, an internship, and specialty courses – Lurman is looking forward to spending this year getting acquainted with Israeli life.

"I'm looking forward to keeping one day of Passover now, and going on a few shidduchim (matchmaking dates)," he joked.

He's also impressed by the resilience of the Israeli people, something he saw firsthand when a mere twelve hours after Iran launched hundreds of drones and dozens of ballistic missiles at Israel, many left their homes and resumed life as usual.

"Hashem runs the world. If this happened in LA, it would feel like an apocalypse. But as I'm talking to you, I'm sitting outside studying and people are playing in the park," he said.

New olah Giselle Grossman, too, is in awe of Israeli resilience which she's seen in action twice in her short time here. The first was the morning of October 7 while she was on a MASA program.

"When the sirens began, I woke up disoriented and had no idea what was going on," she said. When she started seeing if anybody she knew was at the Nova Party she recognized one of the victims of the Nova party. Although she wasn't friends with him, she was invited to his birthday party through a friend which was set to take place on October 12. He was buried on October 11.

"We never thought something like this would happen," she said. "Most people my age knew someone at the Nova Festival and this was devastating."

Not knowing how the war would unfold, Grossman had three hours to quickly pack her bags and fly back to her native Rio De Janeiro - a 50-hour commute that took over three flights and a bus ride.

Once back in Rio, she realized then that she was no longer home.

"I was back where I grew up, but it didn't feel like home. I was still a bit traumatized from October 7, but I knew I had to go back to Israel and make aliyah," Grossman, who ended up making aliyah with The Jewish Agency for Israel, said. She also added that her Zionist upbringing made this decision an inevitable one.

Now back in Israel, she's studying at Ulpan Etzion a Jewish Agency-funded program that offers five months of intensive Hebrew study for Olim from all over the world who hold college degrees. In a typical program year, Ulpan Etzion provides Hebrew-language study and accommodation to around 1,600 men and women aged 22-35, from more than 30 countries.

"Uplan is great. We have so much support from staff. When the Iranian attack happened Saturday night, everybody was concerned about us. We even had faculty members who offered to stay with us and not go home for the night," she said.

While Grossman is still shaken by those two harrowing experiences, she recognizes that there's danger everywhere and is taking solace in the solidarity one can find in the Jewish state.

"Even though Saturday's attack happened, I have no plans to go back to Brazil or anywhere else. I kind of freaked out Saturday night, but we still have a sense of security here. There are people we can count on and we never feel alone."

Now, Grossman, who was a licensed doctor back in Rio, is working hard to power through any language barriers to pass a medical exam in Hebrew so she can eventually become an OBGYN here in Israel.

"Life in Israel is great. If you want to go to the beach it's there. If you want mountains, then you have that too. I love the feeling of being a Jewish person here despite the challenges. I'm not afraid to be exactly who I am here and a bit of hard work is not going to intimidate me," Grossman said of the some-ten years of study ahead of her.

As for Ayeda Pisaha, who made aliyah from Ethiopia when she was 14, she's an immigrant who is finally at the end of that long academy journey.

Pisaha was in the middle of her third year studying accounting at The Jerusalem College of Technology's Tal Campus when she got pregnant. The debilitating side-effects some women experience during pregnancy took a toll on Pisaha who decided to postpone completing her last year.

As luck and destiny would have it, Pisaha subsequently had five children – each pregnancy coinciding with exam times, and her last year of studies became six.

Finally, in April, she attended her graduation ceremony, dressed in celebratory traditional Ethiopian garb, with her children by her side.

Ayeda Pisaha is finally at the end of her long academy journey | Photo: Michael Erenburg

"It made me so proud to share that moment with them," she said. "With each pregnancy, I continued to study and refused to give up. I was determined to leave JCT's doors with a degree and that's what I've done."

While she acknowledges it was not easy to juggle five young children, run a household, and study, Pisaha is a testament to being able to do just that if one is patient and has faith that anything is possible.

"It's not a disability to have a family," she said. "It's not an excuse not to pursue your dreams. There are always challenges in life, everybody has them. The key is how to respond to those challenges."

"I loved my time at the Jerusalem College of Technology and it's a place where only good things have happened to me," she said.

As Israel celebrates Yom Aliyah day on Friday, these three Olim - who all came to Israel to begin their journeys from scratch - are proof that making aliyah and staying in Israel is hard work, but the results are well worth the sacrifice.

Noa Amouyal is a journalist and editor.

This article originally appeared on Israel Hayom