May 17, 2007 / 29 Iyar 5767
“My wife Karen and I are both professionals. We had successful careers in Uruguay, but we decided that we wanted to build our home in Israel. Through the Jewish Agency’s Aliyah 2000 program, we visited Israel on a pre-aliyah pilot tour to explore job options and choose a city to live in. This trip gave us a tremendous feeling of security when we made aliyah.”
Daniel Balas (33) was born in a suburb of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. He grew up in a predominantly non-Jewish neighborhood and went to public school. At the age of ten, his cousin took him and his brother to an activity at the Habonim Dror Jewish youth movement, and Daniel’s Jewish
When he was 13, Daniel wanted to have a Bar Mitzvah. But his father, who was not Jewish, was opposed to this. Daniel persisted, studying with a teacher and ultimately having a Bar Mitzvah. “It was very difficult, but this was a turning point in my life,” says Daniel.
Daniel came to Israel in 1991 to participate in the Jewish Agency’s Machon: Institute for Young Leaders from Abroad. During this comprehensive year he learned how to be a young leader and fell in love with Israel. He always knew that one day he would return.
However, Daniel’s life took unexpected turns. His parents divorced and Daniel had to work his way through university, taking ten years instead of five to earn his degree in pharmaceutical chemistry. During this time, he performed drug testing for athletes in a laboratory and worked for a state-owned
pharmacy. In 2002, he married Karen, a clinical psychologist, and the young couple began thinking of aliyah.
Through the Jewish Agency’s Aliyah 2000 program, Daniel and Karen explored their employment, educational and housing options in Israel. They came on a pre-aliyah pilot trip, met potential employees and chose the Jewish Agency’s Ra’anana Absorption Center as their first home. “Both our families told us we were crazy, but we felt confident,” says Daniel.
With their 14-month-old daughter, Shirel, they made aliyah in December, 2004. Daniel is now studying Hebrew and will soon take the exams to become a licensed pharmacist in Israel. Karen plans to do an internship in order to practice as a clinical psychologist.
“We are very happy here. We knew that we made the right decision when the first official we met at the airport looked at our daughter’s name and told us that the letters of her name were the exact same letters of the word Israel.”