• The Gozlan Family Reunites in Israel

    The Gozlan Family Reunites in Israel

    Nathan Roi, The Jewish Agency for Israel ©
  • The Gozlan family arrives in Israel

    The Gozlan family arrives in Israel

    Nir Kafri, The Jewish Agency for Israel ©
  • Meeting her family at the arrival ceremony at the airport

    Meeting her family at the arrival ceremony at the airport

    Nir Kafri, The Jewish Agency for Israel ©

Reunited After 9 Years: A French Aliyah Story

An emotional family reunion at Ben Gurion Airport as a family reunites in Israel as her brother- and sister-in-law were among the 201 immigrants arriving on the season’s biggest Aliyah flight from France.

BEN GURION AIRPORT, Israel – On a hot July day, hundreds of people enthusiastically wait in the shade of a hangar in Israel’s international airport. Live band music and a celebratory spread of food greet the crowd. They chat in French and Hebrew, anticipating a flight of new arrivals from France.

“I’m very excited,” says Reine Gozlan as she waits with her 11 year old daughter, Eva.“I feel that our family is about to be reunited, and it took nine whole years.”

Reine’s sister-in-law, Laure, waits with her 18 month old son, Charlie. Laure wipes away a tear. Today their sister-in-law Judith and her family would join Reine, Laure, and their own families as Israeli citizens.

Nine years ago, Reine Gozlan moved to Israel with just her husband and daughter. This summer brought her an emotional family reunion at Ben Gurion Airport, as her brother- and sister-in-law were among the 201 immigrants arriving on the season’s biggest Aliyah flight from France. 

Although the family reunion is joyous for Reine, she recalls that her decision to make Aliyah nine years was driven by a horrific crime that shook the French Jewish community. On January 21, 2006, 24-year-old Ilan Halimi was kidnapped by an anti-Semitic gang in Paris. Over a period of three weeks, he was tortured and then murdered. 

“That murder led me to make the decision to leave. We heard about this incident, and it terrified us,” she said.

Shocked by those events, Reine and her husband began attending an ulpan (intensive course in Hebrew) at the offices of the Jewish Agency for Israel in Paris and researching the logistical aspects of Aliyah. “My husband looked for work in Israel before we made Aliyah, and as soon as he found work we got on the plane,” she recalled. “That was two months after we had made the decision to immigrate to Israel.”

Like dozens of relatives of new French olim (immigrants to Israel), Reine and Laure waited eagerly for the moment when their loved ones would arrive, becoming their neighbors. 201 new neighbors, to be exact – the summer’s largest single group of French immigrants to Israel. They included doctors, pharmacists, accountants, engineers, students, retirees, and others.

In Her Own Footsteps

For Reine, the scene brought back memories of her own journey to Israel in 2007. When she arrived, she didn’t enjoy  the kind of support system that her relatives will now have. “I made Aliyah to Israel on July 24 – very close to today’s date – nine years ago,” she recalled. “I came to this same entrance, and I didn’t have family in Israel to greet me. My husband and I and [my daughter] Eva, who was a little girl, were the pioneers of the family.”

Together Again

Once the crowd in the Ben-Gurion hangar heard that the plane had landed, Reine, Laure, and their families approached the entrance, where 201 of Israel’s newest citizens would soon be arriving. The crowd waited with small blue and white flags, huge signs saying “Choose Israel” were on display, and the band played Israeli songs as the crowd waited eagerly.

A bus pulled up to the hangar, bringing the first group of new arrivals to their friends, loved ones, and new neighbors waiting inside. When the second bus pulled up, Reine Gozlan saw her sister-in-law Judith and ran to embrace her. The two broke out crying, as 11-year-old Eva hugged her younger cousins, and they all headed towards the hangar. 

Among the speeches welcoming the new olim was one given by Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky, himself no stranger to Aliyah’s challenges and rewards. “French Jewry has a great future in Israel,” he told them. “Today, each one of you has made a great step for the future of your children and for the future of the State of Israel.”

After the speeches and the warm welcome, Judith sat in the airport with her children and her husband Anthony, all of them now Israeli citizens. She wiped away a tear and reflected on her journey. “I came to be with my family, and because this is our land,” she said. “There are many countries in the world, but only Israel is my country.” 

This summer, over 5,000 new immigrants arrived in Israel with the help of The Jewish Agency for Israel, many of them from France. Home to nearly half a million Jews – Europe’s largest Jewish community – France has seen nearly 10 percent of its Jewish population make Aliyah since 2000, with half of those immigrants arriving in the past five years. In response to the heightened demand for their services, The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to encourage Aliyah, assist in the immigration process, and help olim thrive in Israel. 

Nathan Roi originally reported this story in Hebrew.



21 Oct 2016 / 19 Tishrei 5777 0
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