02 Sep From Argentina to Israel: Making Aliyah During Corona
“One week or ten days before our departure, scheduled for March 16, we received a call to postpone our Aliyah due to the coronavirus,” recalled Giselle. The family’s 20 pieces of luggage were packed, their jobs quit, kids Dan and Maia had already left school, and they had informed their landlord the apartment would be available to lease. Postponing moving to Israel was not an option but every day, the coronavirus situation continued to get worse.
In order to travel, the family had to sign a formal sworn statement agreeing to comply to a 14-day quarantine period upon their arrival, and 72 hours before boarding the plane, they were at The Jewish Agency’s office signing papers and arranging for people in Israel to leave food at their doorstep throughout their quarantine.
“Despite not knowing what would really happen when we got to Israel and nothing going according to our plans, we never doubted our decision to get on the plane on March 16,” said Giselle.
The idea of making Aliyah was initially Ariel’s. But after Giselle visited Israel in mid-2019, she quickly came around and agreed to the move.
“We know people have different motivations for making Aliyah. There are people willing to for the sake of Zionism, or because it’s their life’s dream, or for economic reasons… In our case, it’s for Zionism and it’s also a bet on the future,” shared Giselle. “People tell us: ‘It’s for the kids.’ We say: ‘No, it’s not only for the kids, it’s also for us.’”
“I don’t think Israel is the perfect place because that place doesn’t exist, but I do believe that making Aliyah and being in Israel is an upgrade if compared to my life in Argentina,” added Ariel. “I always thought that it may be a good place. You don’t choose where you are born, but you do choose where to live, and Israel was a place you could choose to live in.”
Ariel, Giselle, and their two teenage children stayed at an apartment for new olim (immigrants) in Kfar Saba, subsidized by The Jewish Agency. They initially planned to live there for just one month but were able to continue to stay in the same apartment due to the pandemic. They started participating in Ulpan (Hebrew courses) via Zoom shortly after their arrival, planning to finish Ulpan before turning their attention to finding jobs. They also want to help other olim get settled in Israel.
“There are times when we wonder whether we made the right decision coming here,” reflected Giselle. “But I can say, without a doubt, we are very happy that we boarded that plane.”