Six-year old Hannah Rose was quite surprised when Haim Bibas, the Mayor of Modi’in and Chairman of the Union of Local Authorities in Israel, showed up at her house with shmurah matza and a bottle of wine, in honor of the family’s first Passover Seder in Israel.
But she somehow held herself naturally, regardless.
Hannah-Rose chatters in perfect Hebrew, without a trace of a Parisian accent. “I speak Hebrew with my little sister Eve Tosca, she’s two, but she doesn’t always understand me,” she says as her family laughs around her – her grandparents Danielle and Francis Gilberg, her mother Stephanie and father Franck.
The family made Aliyah eight months ago from Boulogne, a suburb of Paris.
“My brother has been living in Modiin for ten years already,” Franck says in Hebrew. “We are celebrating our first Passover here together with him. It’s a life-long dream for me, to raise our children here in Israel. We thought this was a good time to make Aliyah, because our children’s future is here… For us, adults, it’s not simple here, because it’s all new and strange, and we are still searching for work, but we still think it is the right time to live our dream for the sake of our children."
Stephanie is a psychologist by profession, and she hopes to find work in her field. “Life in Modiin is nice. We feel much better here than anywhere else. When you are here, you don’t feel like you are living in the Middle East,” she tells in French. (“I only finished my Hebrew Ulpan studies in the past few weeks,” she says, laughing.)
When the mayor of the city Haim Bibas enters the house, there was an instant connection. He tells the aliyah story of his mother, the sister-in-law of Deputy Prime Minister David Levy, from Ouazzane, Morocco, and adds that he is the grandson of Rav Shlomo Bibas. “I am also from Morocco,” Danielle says, nodding.
In Modiin today, there are about 10,000 olim-residents. “Most of them are from English-speaking countries, but there is also a sizable French-speaking community,” Bibas tells.
Franck says he feels good about the new city, and Danielle adds, “There’s this unfair reputation about Israelis, but every day, we realize more and more how warm and hospitable Israelis are to newcomers. It’s a wonderful feeling to feel so embraced.”