Vanessa Sayada wants to make one thing very clear. Yes, there is some anti-Semitism in France although she didn't feel it personally. But that's not why she came. Says the 28-year-old legal adviser who gained her MA at the Sorbonne, "I didn't decide to make aliya because of the anti-Semitism in France but because I love Israel and wanted to live here."
In October 2008, after having visited the country and spent some time here on experimental programs run by various Jewish Agency bodies, her dream was realized and she came, as an immigrant, to Tel Aviv, leaving behind her parents in Paris.
"But I have a huge family here," she says, so taking the plunge was not as daunting as it sounds.
Her mother is from Algeria and her father from Tunisia and they met in Paris, where her grandparents had arrived in the 1950s from the former French colonies. Many uncles and aunts made their way from Paris to Israel, but her parents stayed. Her father is an electrical engineer and her mother a librarian. A brother lives in Montreal and another in Jerusalem.
After completing her studies in international law in Paris, she came to spend a few months here under the aegis of Masa, an organization funded by the government and the Jewish Agency which helps and encourages young people from the Diaspora to make aliya. Participants spend a semester here studying or volunteering, and Sayada found herself in a large apartment in Tel Aviv sharing with like-minded students and working as an intern in a law firm. She also continued to polish her Hebrew in an ulpan.
She also found the nonprofit Gvahim organization helpful. Originally with a French orientation but now available to all nationalities, the Gvahim staff helps young professionals making aliya to fulfill their potential, advising on things like writing a resumÃ© and how to behave in an interview.
After this experience she spent a year in Chile doing a course in international trade and perfecting her Spanish, which was to come in very handy when she finally arrived, here although she didn't know it at the time.
She joined an ulpan and set about looking for a job. She sent out her CV to various agencies and went to many interviews. One of them, the Israel/South American Chamber of Commerce, came up with a dream job in the commercial section of the Mexican Embassy, and she immediately accepted it. It proved to be a perfect choice.
"They are such a lovely group of people there; the ambassador is a really nice friendly man and I love my work. I'm really happy to get up and go to work every morning, which you can't say about all jobs."
Once she landed the job she decided to rent an apartment on her own and found a two-room place right in the heart of town which she furnished herself. "It's a beautiful apartment and big enough for me," she says, "and I'm very happy there."
"All my friends are the people I met in Masa," she says. "They are French, American, South American. No British though, they all went back."
"I like to go to movies, theater and twice a week I go to a dance studio where we do ballet and modern jazz. I have always danced since the age of five and am glad I can continue it here." She also volunteers in the alumni association of French universities - the AAEGE (Association des Anciens Eleves des Grandes Ecoles en Israel) - and is on the executive committee.
"I'm from a very traditional family where we kept kashrut and went to synagogue regularly, so it's weird for me to see people not keeping Yom Kippur for instance; I think it's very sad."
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
"I want to stay in my job as I still have a lot to learn, and improve my Hebrew. Eventually of course I would like to marry and have children."
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