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(photo credit: Courtesy of Eileen Karpel Kenigsburg)
The arrival of 82-year-old grandmother Joyce Karpel in Israel on Monday night marked the completion of a single family's 60-year transition from South Africa to the Holy Land.
"We are overjoyed," declared Karpel's daughter-in-law, Eileen. "We had no family in Israel, only one cousin when we made aliya. Now we are a complete family."
Before arriving in Israel, Karpel had spent her life in South Africa's quickly diminishing Bloemfontein Jewish community. However, she longed to join the rest of her family, which was now living in Israel. After losing her partner of 25 years two months ago, Karpel decided it was "time to close the circle" and join her daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
Karpel will start her new life here in Hod Hasharon with Eileen and her daughters.
The first member of Karpel's family to make aliya was her brother, Yehuda Kaplan, in the late 1950s. Kaplan served in the IDF as a paratrooper and then settled in Kibbutz Yizre'el, where he married and brought up three children.
Karpel's parents, Robert and Dora, also made aliya in 1959, when they were in their mid-50s. They joined Kaplan on Kibbutz Yizre'el, but Karpel remained in South Africa with her son, Noel.
In 1977, Noel Karpel also came to Israel and remained until 1979, when he returned to South Africa and married Eileen.
However, he passed away there in 1995.
After his death, his wife and two daughters - Liat, then 15, and Danielle, 13 - returned to Israel.
Both daughters served in the IAF, one in the anti-aircraft unit, and the other in a specialist IDF unit in Intelligence. They were the ones who accompanied and assisted their grandmother on the flight from South Africa on Monday.
Throughout her life, Karpel has been a strong and idealistic Zionist. Only six weeks ago, she resigned as treasurer for the Bloemfontein Women's Zionist League, a position she had held for over 25 years.
"The love of Israel was strongly instilled in all of us through Joyce," said Eileen. "She has been an ardent Zionist all her life."