One hundred and forty olim (immigrants) from France arrived in Israel this evening and were welcomed at Ben Gurion Airport by Israeli Minister of Immigration and Absorption, Pnina Tamano-Shata and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), Yael Eckstein, whose organization arranged for the flight.
Several days before her flight with her husband and three children, Barbara Simha Bohadana said from Paris: “I was fired because I was Jewish. A pharmacy manager, who I worked for as a pharmacist, did not even try to hide the reason for my dismissal. 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.
“We have always been Zionists and we knew we would make aliyah. We are a religious family and abide by a traditional Jewish lifestyle. I am so happy that we are moving to Israel and that we will never have to go through such experiences again.”
Forty-one-year-old Lionel Giuili, who made aliyah with his wife Stephanie and their three children, noted: “My parents live in Israel, as well as my sister and a lot of other family members. We always knew we would make aliyah. We were always connected to Israel and maintained Jewish tradition. However, the Hypercacher Kosher Supermarket Siege was the straw that broke the camel's back, and we finally decided to make aliyah.”
Although Lionel and his family did not suffer any physical violence, the plague of anti-Semitism has had a direct impact on every member of the Jewish community. Lionel added: "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. Neither I nor my children walked around the street with Jewish symbols."
Lionel had visited his family in Israel quite often before making aliyah. "My parents live in Jerusalem, and even before they made aliyah, I already had family living in Israel. I always felt at home in Israel. I feel free in Israel, and I no longer have to hide my Jewish identity. 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.
“My children are very excited about making aliyah. They expect to see their grandparents and cousins, and I think they are going to be visiting the Mediterranean Sea all the time.”
Moving to Israel during the coronavirus pandemic has not scared the family. "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.”
Minister of Immigration and Absorption, Pnina Tamano-Shata said: "In 2020, we 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.
“I congratulate our brothers and sisters from France, who are Zionists and full of love for this country, and who today, thanks to The Fellowship, realized their dream of making aliyah and uniting with the people living in Zion. The Jews of Europe and the rest of the world are currently facing complex challenges, and every Jew should know that the gates of this country are still open, even during an emergency or crisis. 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."
President of The Fellowship, Yael Eckstein, said: "We are proud to continue to bring hundreds of olim to Israel, even during a complex period as the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences. The arrival of the olim is not only a fulfillment of Zionism; it is also a sign for prospective olim 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."
Nearly half of the olim (60) are children under the age of 18. Eleven of the olim are medical and paramedical professionals. Seventeen have careers in high-tech while 27 have experience in liberal arts professions. Fifty 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.
For more than 20 years, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has been helping Jews to make aliyah and has invested more than $200 million in bringing more than 750,000 olim (immigrants) to Israel. The Fellowship has also been a major contributor to the Jewish Agency and helped to establish the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization. In 2014, The Fellowship began operating independently in the field of immigration. Since then, it has brought more than 23,000 olim to Israel from 30 countries around the world. The olim receive comprehensive assistance from The Fellowship, including special grants of $500 per adult and $300 per child. The Fellowship also sponsors their flights to Israel and ensures that they receive the klitah (resettlement) assistance that they need. Additionally, The Fellowship helps immigrant families with housing and employment, and continues to advise them as they become accustomed to life in Israel.