Meirav (Abramovich) Chai, a worker at Global Aliyah Center of The Jewish Agency, remembers the first moment that she met the man who would become her husband, Daniel Chai, who made Aliyah with the help of The Jewish Agency from South Africa to Israel. This happened during Operation Red Carpet, a campaign which The Jewish Agency organized. She was a national service volunteer at the Global Aliyah Center, who came to help olim, and he was a new oleh that had just arrived in Israel.
In the two days of Operation Red Carpet, Meirav and Daniel got to know each other well. “We spoke a lot, and became friends, and our bond got closer. We started dating, and after two and a half years, we got married,” she tells with sparkling eyes.
And how was the first meeting?
“I don’t know how to explain this, but it seems to me that this was destined to happen like this, because he had been planning to make Aliyah months earlier, but then faced some bureaucratic issues so he pushed off his flight – for exactly that time that I was working there.”
Today, Meirav lives in Efrat, and her husband Daniel is serving in the army. He has already served for a year and a half in a combat unit, and has one more year to go.
“When he is released, he will go to study physiotherapy, while I am learning classical studies and music in Hebrew University, while working at the Global Aliyah Center,” she explains.
And what about the different cultural mentalities? And the distances?
“I’m not distant from the mentality. My father made Aliyah as a young boy from North America, so I understand some of the Anglo culture, but of course in marriage, one learns it on the feet. It was destined, and it somehow works even though we’re apart, he in the army and me here, my heart is with him and his heart is with me.”
Today, Daniel and Meirav live in a caravan, and she hopes to soon buy an apartment and start a family. For now, she works in the Global Aliyah Center, answering Aliyah questions from all over the world in English.
I met Meirav on the day that the new Global Aliyah Center was established in Kiryat Moriah in Jerusalem, as Chairman Natan Sharansky came to dedicate the new center.
Sharansky told Meirav and Daniel’s story at the dedication of the center. “The Global Aliyah Center symbolizes, above all, the universality of The Jewish Agency, that it gives an answer to any Jew all over the world, and makes anything possible. A Jew can call any given moment and receive information on Aliyah and life in Israel.”
The new Global Aliyah Center of The Jewish Agency, dedicated today, has received 19,570 calls in the first quarter of 2014 alone, of those interested in aliyah from France – compared to 7,386 in that same time period last year. The service center, directed by Agency staffmember Yosi Leibovitz, is a call and Internet center, offering service to those interested in Aliyah. The service offers 35 numbers to call toll-free, as well as online chats, and for those already in Israel, personal meetings. The center serves prospective olim in their own language, and according to their local time zones as well. The center works 22 hours a day and 6 days a week in English, and 12 hours a day in other languages: Spanish, French, Russian and Hebrew. In 2013, the Center fielded 194,743 calls, 116,988 emails, 6,105 online chat inquiries, and assisted in 610 adjustments of residency status.
According to Agency statistics, from the beginning of this year, the numbers of French Jews interested in Aliyah have risen dramatically. In the first quarter alone (January – March 2014), The Jewish Agency filed 3,014 aliyah applications, compared to the final quarter of 2013 which had 934 applications opened. Aliyah from France overall has risen 320% in the past quarter, and in 2013, 3280 made Aliyah, compared to 1917 in 2012.
Sharansky noted that in light of increasing French Aliyah, the Center is now employing over ten French-speaking representatives, all olim from France themselves.