Originally from the island of Tahiti in French-speaking Polynesia, the beautiful Naomi Amselem has arrived in Israel. This is what she’s always dreamed of: “Tahiti is my island, but my home is in Israel,” she tells me in pure Hebrew, smiling widely.
Naomi was born in a French Jewish family that lives in Tahiti. “I love Israel,” she says, now switching to French. “It’s my home, my family.”
I met her at a ceremony that The Jewish Agency’s Global Aliyah Center organized in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moriah, in partnership with French-speaking representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Absorption. The ceremony awarded Israeli identity cards to dozens of young French Jews that came to Israel through the MASA-Identity-Card program, and who plan to immediately enter national service in the Hadassah-Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem.
Naomi began her journey to an Israeli identity card on the “Tikvah” program, which brought her to Israel for ten months. Naomi is joining her sister here in Israel, who lives in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood with her husband and baby daughter. “My family is very happy that I am making Aliyah to Israel. When I say I’m from Tahiti, people laugh because they think I said ‘ta’iti’ (Hebrew for “I was mistaken”).” Naomi’s Hebrew is strong and she hopes to improve it and go on to study optometry in the Hadassah College in Israel.
Shayna Jauvie of Paris came to receive her Israeli identity card. She was also part of the ten-month long “Tikvah” program, and at its completion, she decided to stay on in Israel. On her way to Aliyah, she also took part in The Jewish Agency program “Blue and White Seniors”. Shayna has an aunt here in Israel, and she hopes to complete her national service soon. The morning after the ceremony, she will enlist in national service at the Hadassah-Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem.
And it’s people like Heliza Salphati who play a key role in this Aliyah process. Salphati has been living in Israel for eight years already, and she is a service representative in the Aliyah Global center, working in the call center with those seeking to change their residency status (from ‘tourist’ to ‘oleh’). Heliza prepares Aliyah case files for interviews with the Ministry of Itnernal Affairs, and in the process, meets with every oleh individually. “I help them with translations, help them to articulate themselves to their best ability, and try to be a bridge between new olim and the State of Israel,” Heliza tells me. “I mostly teach the youth how to approach their Aliyah process. The Jews of France arrive here with sparkling eyes, but the Israeli society chuckles at them a bit. When they’re tourists, they are like royalty, but when they make Aliyah, it’s quite another story, and they have to learn how to deal with that reality. I tell this from personal experience because I too made Aliyah through the Global Aliyah Center. I finished a Mechinah program on Mount Scopus, then completed my national service, and stayed here. I worked in special education for three years, but then understood that my French language is key to my success in life and that I must use it. I always excelled in French, and thought it would be a great mitzvah to be here and help young people begin their lives in Israel.”
The ceremony was a mixture of joy and sadness, as before Purim with the Fast of Esther or Israel Independence Day with Memorial Day – it was held on the day of the funeral of the three yeshiva students who were killed in an attack near Hebron. The young men and women stood in silence in memory of the murdered.
The head of the Aliyah and Special Operations Department, Yehuda Scharf, addressed the day’s somberness. "What a bizarre combination of joy and sadness: You have made Aliyah to Israel, in such a dark hour for our people. I bless you for coming here, I bless your journeys as you begin your lives as Israelis.”