IMPACT: The Country of My Heart – A Journey from France to Israel

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I grew up in Nice, France. But when I was three, I left with my family to Israel. We lived there for two and a half years before my family decided to move back to France. After that, I vowed that one day, no matter what, I would return to live in Israel. Deep inside, I knew it was my true home.

I wasn’t brought up in a Jewish community and my family wasn’t religious. Even so, I never felt comfortable living in France as a Jew. I was always mindful of the threat of anti-Semitism.

In recent years, it’s gotten worse. Synagogues and schools have been attacked; kosher markets broken into. Today, wearing a kippah or amagen david, or showing any signs of being Jewish, can be dangerous. That’s why I designed a special magen david necklace for myself that isn’t so easily recognizable.

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (4)A year and a half ago, I made the decision to leave France for good. I made aliyah with the help of Federation’s partner agency, The Jewish Agency for Israel.

After I arrived, I lived with other olim—recent immigrants. We understood each other and could share our experiences. I started volunteering to help other newcomers like myself.

Then I found a job. And I’m happy to say that I have just become a counselor with The Jewish Agency.

It’s not always easy to be here—to meet people and to understand a new culture. But despite all the difficulties, I never doubted my decision to make aliyah.

During Operation Protective Edge, my family asked me to return to France. They told me it’s not safe in Israel. But I told them it’s not safe in France. Every day is a battle there to live as a Jew.

That summer, rioters took to the streets of Paris, smashing windows of shops owned by Jews and throwing firebombs. I wish my family didn’t live in such a hostile and dangerous place.

Today, I’m proud to say that Israel is my home and my country. With the help of Federation, I have made aliyah and can finally be a Jew without fear. But there are so many others who cannot. Which is why I’m also so grateful for Federation’s continued support.

We’re all one Jewish community, and I’m very proud to be a part of it. For that, Federation, I say: todah rabah.

Through Federation, you can help empower Jews like Carole Sebbah, and assist in their Aliyah efforts, today in three ways:

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IMPACT: Finding Family in Israel

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Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Hannah Larson has a unique perspective on serving in the Israeli military given that she was born abroad. “As Israeli soldiers, we are creating a safe haven for Israelis, and for anyone that wants to come to Israel. We don’t just protect Israel, we protect Jews from all over the world.”

Hannah herself grew up in the U.S., in a family that imbued her with a love of Zionism. “I always had the idea of moving to Israel and making Aliyah,” she says. “But I had never been and needed to see it for myself.”

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (2)Hannah saved up her money, learned Hebrew, and joined Sar-El, The National Project for Volunteers for Israel. It didn’t take her long after arriving in Israel to confirm that she’d been right about her hunch – at age 19, she was on her way to the Jewish State for good.

Jewish Federation was with Hannah during every step of her journey. Through Federation supported Garin Tzabar (a program of The Jewish Agency for Israel), Hannah was able to make Aliyah and quickly integrate into her IDF combat intelligence unit.

Garin Tzabar also provided a home away from home for Hannah and other “Lone Soldiers” – those serving in the IDF without immediate family in Israel.

“I didn’t have family to come back to on weekends from the military,” she says. “Through Garin Tzabar, I spent my first two months in Israel living on a kibbutz. That provided me with a home and friends – an adopted family – to have Shabbat dinners with. It was really amazing.”

As her time in the military came to an end, the Federation-supported “Wings” program (also funded by the Jewish Agency) helped prepare Hannah for civilian life, while the Nativ program for new immigrants gave her an essential understanding of Jewish identity in Israel. She’s currently studying counterterrorism, and plans to remain involved in safeguarding the security of the Jewish State.

“Jewish Federation is the reason I made Aliyah. It’s the reason I plan on staying in Israel and building a family here,” Hannah says. “It has helped me make my way, and connected me with so many Israelis.”

Hannah – now one of those Israelis – tells of one family she lived with for a few months while searching for an apartment of her own. “They opened their home and their hearts. They took me in as if I was one of their kids. That ‘Israeli hug’ – that’s what made me stay here.”

You can help us honor our soldiers in Israel, and assist in their Aliyah efforts, today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

ENGAGE_60DOI
Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

ATTEND AN EVENT

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES