Making Aliyah in the midst of a pandemic

South African Olim with Israel Centre staff and Ambassador Lior Keinan getting ready to leave for Israel.

Aliyah doesn’t stop.

COVID-19 changed the world. It put many aspects of our lives on hold and as we went into lockdown and the sky closed, it affected the plans of many who were planning to make Aliyah and start a new chapter in Israel.

Martine David is one of our olim who has been affected. Martine was planning on leaving and packed up her life. She completed her Aliyah file and is now just waiting for one more document from Home Affairs to allow her to start anew — but they don’t produce those documents at this stage of lockdown.

Like Martine, there are many others struggling to get required documents and complete the process.

Martine has been planning to make Aliyah for quite a long time: “I come from a very Zionistic family and emotionally it is something I have always wanted to do, but the practicality of it made me scared. What really frightened me was the language, because I am a doctor and you can’t be more or less with the language. You have to be very precise.”

After visiting her brother who made Aliyah and starting Hebrew lessons, Martine realised she could do it. “Home is home and you have got to be somewhere where you don’t have to apologise for being you”. Speaking to Martine, she puts many Hebrew words and phrases naturally into her sentences and feels that in her mind, she is half here. “Making the decision was the hardest part”, Martine says. “Once the decision was made, it was relatively easy”.

At the Israel Centre we see that making the decision is the hardest part for many of our olim. Many open their file but take months, sometimes even years to complete it while they are contemplating their decision. Opening a file does not mean that one commits to making Aliyah. A file can be opened for many years and never completed and we try to make sure that whoever follows through with the process does not do it on a whim, but, like Martine, gives it a lot of thought and consideration and makes sure that it is the right decision.

Once lockdown started, many olim who were ready to leave got very nervous. For a couple of months we had to stand still and wait to figure out how to assist them. On 14 June, 19 olim from all around the country boarded a repatriation flight on their way to their new home. On 1 July, 11 more olim made their way to Israel and on 15 July, 24 olim followed suit.

We hope that soon Martine can get her documents and join her brother in Israel and that many more olim will be able to join her.

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