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(photo credit: Meredith Price)
Elodie Lambrozo, 21 - From Paris to Tel Aviv
Elodie Lambrozo grew up in the romance capital of the world but says that Paris seemed small by the time she reached 18. "I wanted a new adventure," says Lambrozo, pushing a strand of dark hair away from her blue eyes. "My mom enrolled me at the Dauphine University and I studied economy there for six months, but I hated every second of it. I was ready for something else." When her older brother decided to come to Israel on a study abroad program three years ago, Lambrozo saw the chance for an interesting vacation and booked a round-trip ticket. She had no idea that the journey would be the start of a love affair with the Jewish state, or that at long last she would find a place to call home.
"I had been to Israel before, but I had never set foot in the city of Tel Aviv," says Lambrozo. "As soon as I got here to visit my brother, I fell madly and instantly in love." While her brother attended classes and studied for exams, Lambrozo often found herself alone during the day, wandering the streets and taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling, energetic city. She spent hours drifting through small neighborhoods, walking into shops on Dizengoff Street, soaking up the sun in caf terraces and discovering quiet corners. After that visit, Lambrozo knew she would be back. Lambrozo arranged to make aliya as quickly as possible after her return to Paris. She returned to Israel on July 28, 2004, 19 years old and without her parents or siblings, this time to stay.
"My grandparents made aliya a few years ago, just before they turned 90," says Lambrozo. "They wanted to be buried in Israel." Her grandfather has since passed away and got his wish to be interred in Jerusalem, in a cemetery overlooking the capital. Her grandmother, who Lambrozo says is in great shape, still lives in Jerusalem and remains energetic. Both sides of Lambrozo's family were pied-noir. Literally translated as "black feet," the term applies to the French citizens who colonized northern Africa, particularly Algeria, between the early 19th century and 1962. During Algeria's war for independence, which lasted between 1954 and 1962, Lambrozo's family, like the vast majority of pied-noir families, returned to France. "My parents were both born in Algeria, and no one who had to leave ever fully got over abandoning their lives there, even if they were teenagers like my parents," says Lambrozo.
"It was paradise on earth," she says, adding that a deep nostalgia surrounds all of her family's stories about life in Algeria. Lambrozo's father is a doctor in Paris and her mother assists him. The couple make at least two trips a year to Israel to visit Elodie and her grandmother. Lambrozo has three siblings: an older sister, 26, who works in insurance in Paris; an older brother, 24, who is doing a financial internship in Montreal; and a younger sister, 16, who is in high school in Paris.
In a spacious, airy apartment on the first floor of an old building on Allenby Street, Lambrozo says she has at last found a place where she can stay. "I've moved five times since I came to Israel," says Lambrozo. "I didn't even want to visit this place because of the location, but as soon as I walked in, I knew I would take it." The charming apartment was once a casino, and a few of the old walls have been painted bright red, yellow and blue, giving the aged bricks a fresh look. Most of the wide area is open, and Lambrozo says that the previous inhabitant put in a wall to separate the bedroom from what was previously one enormous gambling room. "I left everything exactly as I found it, from the paint to the antique lighting fixtures. I love it," says Lambrozo, adding that she has grown so accustomed to the noise from Allenby Street that it no longer affects her.
"I don't even hear it," she says, as noise from honking horns, squeaking wheels and lumbering trucks rises from below.
"I've had millions of jobs since I got here. I've been a waitress, a sales person, a hostess and answered calls at a call center, which is what I'm doing now but will hopefully find something else soon" says Lambrozo, who strongly values her financial independence. "I was so happy to work when I first got here that I found myself working for 18 shekels an hour. Now I make a little more, but it's just a part-time job because I'm still a student."
Between a full class load at Tel-Aviv University and working a few hours a week, every day holds a different routine for Lambrozo. She is currently enrolled in French literature and Chinese classes, taking an average of 12 courses a semester. "I suffer from sleep deprivation every day," Lambrozo says with a smile. "And I have very little free time."
"All of my friends are either French or speak French," says Lambrozo. "I met most of them at the university, and there is a huge French population in Tel Aviv, so it wasn't hard to meet people." Lambrozo says that even after learning Hebrew, she finds making friends with Israelis difficult because of the difference in mentality and culture.
A native speaker of French, Lambrozo speaks fluent Hebrew and passable English. She can also converse and understand a little bit of Chinese, and says she hopes to be fluent by the time she finishes her bachelor's degree in a few years.
Lambrozo was raised in a religious home and observes many traditional aspects of Judaism, including the lighting of Shabbat candles, eating kosher and observing the holidays. She is less strict than her parents, but adds that "I am very traditional." She usually welcomes Shabbat with friends at home on Friday nights, she says.
"I belong to neither France nor Israel," says Lambrozo. "I don't consider myself fully French or Israeli. I cannot define myself in those terms, but I can say that I feel good living here and I am enjoying my life."
"I love to read," says Lambrozo. "I also love to write. I write a lot." In the small amount of free time she has, Lambrozo enjoys riding her bike and working out. "I love to shop, but I have had a hard time finding clothing stores I like in Israel. It's not like Paris."
Lambrozo dreams of working as a business interpreter after she finishes her degree in Chinese. She hopes to be able to translate French into Chinese, and vice versa. "I want to have a job where I am my own boss, and that pays well enough to leave on weekend trips and get away," says Lambrozo. "My goal is to make enough money to raise a family, but I'm not in any hurry. I eventually want to get married and have children, but not for a few more years." Lambrozo says she would like to stay in Israel, but that her situation will depend on political developments. "I hope to see the day soon when peace will come to this region," she says.
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