Surviving aliyah: Idealism at the fore for group of new immigrants

Monica Jayudt, 21, from Colombia, was one of 70 new immigrants who received their identity cards in a special ceremony attended by Deputy Interior Minister Ruhama Avraham and Eli Yitzhaki, head of the Jewish Agency's absorption division, at Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem on Thursday. Jayudt, who hopes to study communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said she had never visited Israel before making aliya. Many people back home had thought she was crazy to consider moving to a place of "violence and conflict," she said. "Many people in Colombia have negative perceptions of Israel, but I am now glad to see for myself that these are false and misguided," she added. As each person's name was called out it was greeted with whoops of joy and enthusiasm as the olim received their ID cards from Ulpan Etzion principal Anat Uzzan. The young adults, ages 18-26, are part of a larger group of 200 olim from France, Ukraine, South Africa, Peru and elsewhere who recently made aliya without their families as part of the Jewish Agency's Atid (Future) program. The purpose of the ceremony was to encourage the olim to feel that "becoming a citizen of Israel is something important," Yitzhaki told The Jerusalem Post. He said this particular group had begun studying at Ulpan Etzion on January 15 and was composed exclusively of people with strong academic aspirations. Avraham told the olim she was proud of the fact that they had chosen to be "pioneers" who had made the difficult choice of leaving loved ones behind to fulfill their dream of living in Israel. "You are now a legal part of the family of Israel and I hope that you succeed in overcoming any obstacles that may follow," she said. Yonatan Maimon, 25, an engineer from Paris, said one of the principal reasons he had chosen to make aliya was because of the increasing racial tensions in France, which left him "without a future there." Asked whether he was concerned about Hamas's rise to power, Maimon said: "I am a little scared, but I don't think that things will change dramatically in the region as a result."