Shyella Mayk and Amit Shuker are both several time veteran staffers. We were shocked, thrilled and honored when Shyella called our office to tell us that Amit had proposed on New Year’s Eve while staffing an Israel Outdoors trip. Shyella shares her story with us below.
In December of 2008, Amit and I staffed a Birthright trip together. We decided not to tell anyone from the trip that we were in a relationship in order to avoid that kind of dynamic on the staff team. We wanted the participants to get to know us as individuals and feel comfortable coming to either of us with questions, concerns, or problems. We weren’t sure how long we would be able to keep pretending but we certainly tried our best to last for most of the trip.
We departed on December 25th and everything went very smoothly. Our guide, Hagai, was great and Itamar, the medic, was also a fun guy. The group really started to come together and bond with each other within the first 2 days of the trip. Saturday night in Jerusalem, during the free time on Ben Yehuda Street, a participant, Rosie, asked me if I ever heard about a specific waffle place in the area, and what a coincidence it was since I wanted to take Amit there too! So Rosie (and her fiancé Marc) and Amit and I went to Babet where we shared a delicious huge waffle layered with different kinds of chocolate and vanilla spreads. Amit and I really got along well with them and, of course, they asked us if we had boy/girl friends. Luckily, Amit answered in a way that avoided the question and changed the subject. That was a close call and it was only the second day!
The day before New Year’s Eve, the staff team put our heads together to figure out how we could make sure the group would have a great “Sylvester” party (Sylvester is what New Years Eve is called in Israel). We were spending the night at Kibbutz Malkia, which is way up north. Hagai made some phone calls and found out that at a nearby kibbutz, called Kibbutz Machanayim, there was going to be a party for 5 other Israel Outdoor Birthright trips, so he arranged for us to go, too. We would be joining 3 Argentinean trips and 2 American trips at the kibbutz party that night to celebrate the New Year. We were the first ones to arrive and right away our group was ready to dance! Amit and I danced with everyone and it was a lot of fun!
Amit and I had a plan: we agreed to meet by the back door at 11:55pm and then we would find a spot where no one could see us so we could kiss at midnight, too. At 11:50pm, the D.J. started distributing champagne, and at 11:55pm, Amit went out towards the back door, and I followed about a minute later. We ran out the back, away from the party building, and went behind another nearby building. We heard the people at the party start to count down. Amit told me to close my eyes, and I did because I thought he wanted to make the kiss really special, and he certainly did! He kissed me and then all of a sudden I felt a ring in my mouth during the kiss! Then he asked me if I would marry him and I answered of course I will! It was such a perfect moment and I was so impressed with Amit’s creativity in proposing! We then called Amit’s mom and brother, Muli (who was the only one who knew in advance), and we called my family when we got back to our hotel later that night. So I wore the beautiful ring for about 10 minutes and then took it off to go back to the party and start rounding up our group, who were either still partying or playing Frisbee on the lawn with Hagai!
The next day we told Hagai that we were actually together and just got engaged last night. He was really happy for us and understood why we kept the relationship a secret on the trip and we told him that we would tell the participants at the right time. The next night, after Shabbat dinner, everyone was in such a good mood and we decided that it was a good time to tell the group. So I got up in front of everyone and told them that I wasn’t planning on telling them until the very end of the trip but there had been some updates so I want to tell them now. I first said that Amit and I met on Jdate. Everyone was shocked and said “oh my G-d, no way!” and then I told them that we’ve been together for a year and a half and they all said again, “oh my G-d, no way!” I explained to them our reasons for keeping the relationship a secret on the trip and they understood and agreed that it was a positive thing to do for good of the group. Then someone said, “so what did you guys do at midnight on New Year’s Eve?” and I told them the story, and the whole room went crazy! Everyone was screaming and cheering and all the girls crowded around me to see the ring! I’m sure everyone in Netanya heard the group’s reaction! Someone said that at dinner earlier that night, their table talked about how we would make a good couple and they thought about how they can try to set Amit and me up together!
This was Amit’s second time staffing and my fifth, and in my experiences the first trip was amazing and the rest just kept getting better and better. This fifth trip was definitely the ultimate best for me because aside from the great guide, great group, and cool medic, working with and getting engaged to Amit made this trip the BEST OF ALL. It was so much fun to travel all over Israel with Amit and with a group that really appreciated all the amazing places and experiences.