- immigration - Israel
A gala reception at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv welcomes 400 Olim, or new immigrants to Israel. There are Russians on one side, French on the other – and smiles and emotion all around.
“It’s a dream we’ve been nurturing for two thousand five hundred years. Our parents talked about it - and now were doing it,” said fresh immigrant Odette Gian.
Israel wants the Olim to feel at home immediately - each one receives their brand new Israeli passport directly from the minister of Integration.
Aliya, or coming up to Israel, is the incarnation of the Zionist dream of bringing all Jews together in one state. Sixty years after its creation, Israel still celebrates Aliya. These pictures will be shown all over the country.
“Make yourself at home”
Myriam Naydis, 23, began her Aliya in January. Four months after moving to West Jerusalem from Ukraine, she visited friends in rural Galilee.
“They always tell me: ‘if you want to eat something open the fridge and help yourself, make yourself at home’,” she said.
The Hammers are like a surrogate Israeli family for Myriam. She made friends with them three years ago in Odessa, Ukraine and they encouraged her to make the leap.
“It is very difficult to make Aliya, to be away from your home, your habits and your culture. It’s a brave things to do, it’s really great,” said Reout Hammer.
Myriam thought everything over before she made the move. By doing her Aliya, she had to give up her Ukrainian nationality. She has enrolled into a five-month intensive Hebrew course. Immigration centres also organise integration seminars for newcomers.
“There are lots of problems out there”, said a lawyer who hosts such training sessions. “if I can help with a short lecture on what not to do, regarding rent, the person’s Aliya will become much easier.”
Laura Benabou, 23, moved from France four years ago and is now the archetype of a successful immigrant: she speaks fluent Hebrew and works as a financial advisor for a large Israeli bank.
“For the moment, I guess I’ve achieved all my goals. Yeah, all of them,” she said.
Yet Laura has not settled in Tel Aviv for good. She is thinking of moving to Paris or London temporarily, to earn more money in the financial sector.
Before she moved to Tel Aviv, Laura spent some time in Ashkelon, where her mother now lives. Another side of the Israeli reality emerges there: last March, dozens of rockets launched from Gaza have landed on the town.
“I did not come here for ten days,” she said. “I can’t get used to hearing the siren and waiting thirty seconds to find out if it’s going to hit me this time.”
“Poverty is not so tough when the sun is out”
While Laura is thinking of working abroad as a way of improving her already comfortable lifestyle, others have no choice.
Jonathan Clarque, 28, is another franco-israeli. He is just back from France. He works there five months every year, and spends the rest of the time in Tel Aviv, where he lives on 1,000 to 1,200 euros per month. “I’m just back from Paris because I had to work, because I needed money,” he said. “I think Charles Aznavour sums it up best when he says Poverty is not so tough when the sun is out. That’s definitely true!”
Between a quarter and half of French Jews who move to Israel keep their French jobs, with French salaries. That is called Boeing Aliya - or getting the best of both worlds.
Rudy Cohen, a friend of Jonathan’s, arrived in 2002. He is currently finishing a law degree in France. He says that French salaries in law careers are up to 10 times higher than those in Israel.
He is planning to move to Tel Aviv newt November, while keeping a job in France. His goal is to take advantage of favourable exchange rates to buy a flat in Israel, where he says “you have the most beautiful women in the world”.