(photo credit:GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Kupat Holim pharmacies are not the most welcoming of places – long queues and
grumpy staff make picking up one’s pills an ordeal best kept to a minimum. But
in Kfar Saba you might be lucky enough to be greeted by Keren Zitoun, who is
pretty and friendly and greets you with a big smile and French-accented
She made aliya with her husband, David, and three small children
three years ago. The time had come to leave France, not, they hasten to add,
because of anti-Semitism but because it had always been their dream to move to
Israel, and when David found work in his field of nanotechnology research, they
decided to take the plunge.
Keren is from Toulouse and the couple met
when David went there from Paris to study under a well-known professor to
complete his PhD. He spotted Keren at a synagogue kiddush, and the rest is
Her brothers’ children study at the Toulouse school in which
children were murdered by a terrorist a few months ago.
“Many more Jews
want to come to Israel since that happened,” she says. French Jews are also
uncertain of the future with the election of the new president.
know that 94 percent of French Jews voted for [former president Nicolas]
Sarkozy?” Both Keren and David have doctorates and their fathers are well-known
cardiologists in Paris and the best of friends. Keren studied for seven years
for her pharmacist qualifications and worked for eight years in Montpelier,
where they were living.
When they decided to make aliya they were not
even told of the option of going to an absorption center, but they feel that
moving straight into an apartment was a good way to integrate into Israeli life
and they do not feel they missed out on anything.
David came two months
before Keren to start teaching at Bar-Ilan University, and began looking for a
place to buy.
“I looked in Ramat Gan and Petah Tikva but in the end,
after consulting with family here, I settled on Ra’anana. There’s a good ulpan
here and many other French people have moved to the town.”
house-hunting, sending photos of potential apartments back to France. They chose
one right in the center, which seemed suitable for the young family. Keren did
the five-month ulpan course and the children settled into kindergarten and
schools. She took the re-qualifying exam and almost immediately began work in
Her feelings about her work are ambivalent as it is so
different from the way she is used to working.
“The level is low and it’s
closed and rigid,” she says. “The only part I really like is the communication
with people. I try to be professional and ask questions but I feel there is no
chance to take it to a higher level.”
Most of her fellow pharmacists are
Russian and of course speak to each other in their native tongue, which she
accepts and does not get offended by. The Arab pharmacists are professional but
also speak to each other, naturally, in Arabic.
Once a week she takes a
course which will eventually bring more responsibility.
“It’s a good job
with excellent conditions – for instance I’m assured of a pension – but I’m 34,
not 50 – so that isn’t terribly comforting right now. On the other hand, if one
of the children is sick I’m able to take time off without too much
Shabbat is the time for the whole family to get together.
Friends are often invited to a meal or the Zitouns are on the receiving end of
the invitation, and they are happy to have found many like-minded young families
– French and Israeli – in their new hometown. David attends an interesting
synagogue which is a mix of French Tunisian and Breslov. The Breslov members
will burst into song at unexpected times, while the congregants chat to each
other in French and announcements are made in Hebrew. The Zitouns like the fact
that while Shabbat in France during the summer ended at 11 at night, which made
it difficult with small children, here it never ends much past 8
They are both very keen on sports activities and Keren especially
loves to run. She gets up at five in the morning three times a week to run
around the town, which is small potatoes for someone who ran in the Paris
“I love running,” says Keren. “It’s very healthy and I find it
especially good for stress.”
David is a karate expert, but since he does
not have very flexible hours at work he has put the karate on hold and runs
They also like to swim whenever time allows.
always ups and downs,” they say.
“We work harder than in France and we
earn less. But we feel safe here.”