Isaac Frianta, 31, of Salonika, Greece, came to Israel while Athen's economic meltdown was in full swing. Issac, for his part, however, sees his Aliyah as a natural extension of his activities in the local Jewish community, and not as a response to tought Hellenic times.
"All my life I thought that Israel is the right place for all Jews. While I always had a desire to go, as I grew older it increased," he muses, in conversation with The Jewish Agency for Israel.
"Here I feel at home, because I grew up that way, "he says; Isaac's father Solomon heads Salonika's 1,300-member Jewish community.
But, while Issac said Greece's crumbling economy didn't motivate his decision to make Aliyah, in February 2012 the Agency embarked on a $1 million emergency aid campaign to help the remaining struggling community.
“The funds will enable communal institutions to continue their operations, including programs to strengthen the community’s ties with Israel and the development of unique aliya tracks for those members of the community who wish to immigrate to Israel,” the agency said in a statement. “The aid package will be funded by the Jewish Agency and by its partners, Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal (UIA) and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.”
One can donate to the online campaign here: https://donate.jewishagency.org/page/contribute/greece
Senior community leader, Victor Asser, said at the time that "the contribution of Keren Hayesod – UIA and the Jewish Agency is the only feasible way to prevent the total collapse of the community."
According to Asser, "Each day the economic situation worsens, while income decreases and unemployment is on the rise. So we are thankful for this support and view it as a life-saving tool." The Jewish community in Greece believes that support is likely to accelerate aliyah.
Isaac, who studied international trading in Kastoria for four years, upon graduation returned to Salonika. There he completed a master's degree in logistics management. He then served 17 months as a logistics officer in the Greek army.
After being demobilized, he found work with an international supermarket chain in Salonika, and was sent to Scotland after which he was appointed regional director.
However, despite his professional successes, Israel was never far from his mind.
"I was in Israel many times. My father used to bring me and my brother here," he says, noting that he served for three years as vice president of a Jewish youth group in Salonika, and two years as president of the group's national branch.
"Seven years I was a member of the Board of the Jewish community, a member and deputy president. I organized many flights of visitors from the community to Israel, "he explains.
"My father always talked about Israel and I wanted to come here," he says. "I waited until the time was ripe, and, now because of the crisis in Greece, decided that maybe it was time to move on and start afresh. I want to live the Israeli experience."
Most of the Jewish communities in Greece are beset with financial problems due to the economic crisis in Greece, he says, adding that while "I pray that everything will turn out for the best at home - I have to concentrate on learning Hebrew so I can interview for positions here."
But, meanwhile, "I want to move forward and not backward. I like to go forward and I think that that will happen in Israel," and points out that at first he "wanted to live in Tel Aviv at first, where I have friends, but I'm flexible. I have family in Haifa and Tel Aviv - and I'm flexible."
But wherever he ends up settling down, Isaac concludes that raising a future family at home in Israel and at home with its traditions is a far bigger motivation than professional perks or housing incentives.
"When I asked myself why I want to live here I realized that I want my children to grow up here as Jewish children," he says, vowing that, "I want to raise my family according to Jewish tradition."
And Issac's not alone, "I feel like I have found myself in Israel. For me, this is freedom" says recent Greek oleh Matityahu Mizan. Read more about his story here: http://voices.jewishagency.org/blog/1/article/13