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140 new immigrants from France land in Israel

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The olim arrived on a flight organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship); Several state antisemitism as part of the reason for move

By ILANIT CHERNICK

In spite of the coronavirus pandemic, aliyah to Israel is continuing at full steam. 

On Monday night, 140 new immigrants from France arrived in Israel on a flight organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship).

Several of the new immigrants stated that they had decided to move to Israel due to high levels of antisemitism in France. 

Barbara Simha Bohadana, who came with her husband and three children from Paris, explained that she was discriminated against at her work because she was Jewish.

“A pharmacy manager, who I worked for as a pharmacist, did not even try to hide the reason for my dismissal,” she said. “He just told me that a wig or any other sign of my Jewishness was not acceptable and that if I did not have them removed, I should just get up and leave. 

“So I got up and left. My husband, Dan, an anesthesiologist by profession, also had a hard time finding a job because of his Jewish background,” Bohadana added.

Addressing why she had decided to move to Israel, Bohadana said that she and her family have always been Zionists “and we knew we would make aliyah. 

“We are a religious family and abide by a traditional Jewish lifestyle,” she emphasized. “I am so happy that we are moving to Israel and that we will never have to go through such experiences again.”

For 41-year-old Lionel Giuili, who came with his wife Stephanie and their three children, moving to Israel was always on the cards but it was the Hypercacher Kosher Supermarket terrorist attack in 2015 that made the decision final.

“My parents live in Israel, as well as my sister and a lot of other family members,” he said. “We were always connected to Israel and maintained Jewish tradition.”

However, he stressed, the Hypercacher Kosher Supermarket Siege “was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and we finally decided to make aliyah.”

Although Giuili and his family did not suffer any physical violence, rampant antisemitism in France has had a direct impact on the entire Jewish community. 

“If, for example, while I was sitting and eating in my store and I heard someone enter the store, I automatically took off my kippah,” he recalled, pointing out that neither he nor his children walked around the street with Jewish symbols.

A new immigrant from France kisses the ground after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday night.
(Credit:  Olivier Fitoussi)

During prior visits to Israel with his family,Giuili said he always felt at home in Israel. 

“I feel free in Israel, and I no longer have to hide my Jewish identity,” he explained. “This reflex I developed that made me take my kippah off and put it in my pocket will no longer be necessary as I will be living in Israel.”

Asked about the move, he said that his children have been very excited to make aliyah. 

“They expect to see their grandparents and cousins, and I think they are going to be visiting the Mediterranean Sea all the time,” Giuili added.

The Giuili made it clear that moving to Israel during the coronavirus pandemic was not something they were afraid of. 

“We are aware of the situation in Israel. Israel as a whole has coped well with the situation, especially in the first wave, when France was facing a shortage of masks,” Giuili concluded.

Almost half of the new immigrants are children under the age of 18 while 11 are medical and paramedical professionals. Seventeen have careers in high-tech and 27 have experience in liberal arts professions. 

According to The Fellowship, 50 of the 140 olim will be moving to the coastal city of Netanya while 31 will find their new homes in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.

The Fellowship’s president Yael Eckstein said that the organization is proud to continue bringing hundreds of olim to Israel, despite the complexities of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences. 

“The arrival of the olim is not only a fulfillment of Zionism,” she explained, “It is also a sign for prospective olim (immigrants) to make aliyah in any situation. The Minister of Immigration and Absorption and her staff will ensure the optimal integration for each new citizen as well as their success and contribution to Israel’s society and economy.”

Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Minister, Pnina Tamano-Shata emphasized that this year, Israel will welcome over ten thousand olim from all over the world. 

“It is a great privilege for me, as the Minister of Immigration and Absorption of the State of Israel, to manage aliyah during this challenging time,” she said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

Congratulating the new immigrants from France, Tamano-Shata pointed out that the Jews of Europe and the rest of the world are currently facing complex challenges.

“Every Jew should know that the gates of this country are still open, even during an emergency or crisis,” she said. “The Ministry of Immigration and Absorption will accompany the olim in their first steps towards integration into Israeli society because only together are we stronger.”

Since 2014, The Fellowship has independently brought more than 23,000 olim to Israel from 30 countries around the world.

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