Abigail Klein Leichman
June 13, 2018, Updated August 30, 2018

A couple of days before Josef Fortun received an email informing him that he’d won two free roundtrip tickets to Israel in ISRAEL21c and EL AL Israel Airlines USA’s sweepstakes, he remarked to his family how much he yearned to see his elderly grandmother in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva.

The arrival of the email made his wish come true.

“God doesn’t play games,” marvels the 38-year-old retail manager for a national nonprofit organization. “Winning the trip is very exciting because it gives me an opportunity to see my relatives and possibly stay longer and travel a little.”

The winning package includes a five-day hotel stay.

Fortun’s family emigrated from Russia in 1990, when he was 10. Most of his mother’s side settled in Israel, while his parents went to New York. In 2013, he moved to Florida and now he’s relocating for work to New Jersey.

“I’ve been to Israel a few times but I haven’t been able to go back since my Birthright trip about 16 years ago,” he explains. “From time to time I look online for contests and I follow EL AL on Facebook. When I saw this contest, I registered right away.”

The father of a 13-year-old daughter, Fortun is the only one in his immediate family who has not made regular trips to Israel.

“I have three brothers and they’ve all been to Israel recently. My parents go twice a year. But I’ve been working almost nonstop since college. I have multiple jobs; I also work nighttime security for Daytona International Speedway and when I have time I drive for Uber and Lyft. I’ve been on cruises but I’ve wanted to go back to Israel for years.”

He learned Hebrew as a child in Russia. Although he’s no longer fluent, his ability to read and understand Hebrew will undoubtedly help him on his tour of Israel. He hopes to schedule the trip for the beginning of 2019 after he’s settled in his new community and new job.

His grandmother and other relatives in Beersheva are his first priority, and after that he’s looking forward to visiting cities including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Eilat.

Fortun says he was not familiar with ISRAEL21c before entering the sweepstakes. Now he has our home page saved in his “favorites.”

We look forward to welcoming our new reader to Israel.

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Jason Harris

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