For new immigrants who have arrived in Israel during the coronavirus emergency, the aliyah process has turned to be quite different from what they expected.
Yet, as some of them told The Jerusalem Post, amid the mandatory two-week quarantine, the delays in appointments for bureaucratic necessities and the inability to see family and friends who were eager to welcome them to the country, they are still happy to be in Israel and ready to celebrate Independence Day (Yom Haatzmaut) as much as they can.
“This is my first time in Israel for Yom Haatzmaut,” 24-year-old Dorin Tarashandegan explained.
Tarashandegan made aliyah from Los Angeles with her parents on March 23, and her extended families – grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousin who were all in the country – were an important factor.
Not being able to celebrate the holiday all together is therefore a little disappointing.
“My whole life I was always jealous of my relatives celebrating here with a barbecue and playing games in a park,” she said. “This year maybe we will do something small in our home, but we might also just decide to use Zoom.”
Tarashandegan explained that growing up, she came to Israel a lot and had always wanted to move here. However, because of the crisis, the process has been more complicated than she expected.
“I care about being Jewish and I wanted to be where all the Jewish people are. So even when things got more difficult and our flight was canceled several times, I didn’t give up and kept calling to find a solution,” she said.
“Nefesh B’Nefesh people were really helpful,” she added, referring to the organization which supports aliyah from North America and the United Kingdom.
After three cancellations, Dorin and her parents were finally able to get to the country and start their quarantine period in the apartment they already owned in Netanya, where their relatives live.
“It was a little boring, but also nice after so much stress, in order to get organized and leave Los Angeles,” she explained, highlighting that she feels very lucky to be in Israel in these scary times, because she believes the country is one of the best places in the world to be.
Not being able to see her relatives – and especially her grandparents, who are so excited that they have moved here – has been a little hard, she added.
“However, they live close to where I go to buy groceries, so sometimes I tell them to go out on their balcony and we wave,” she said.
TAMARA DERKASH, 64, also arrived at the end of March from Natick, Massachusetts, with her husband. For them, the process has also not been the smoothest. They managed to rent an apartment for the quarantine beforehand and now they are living in Jerusalem.
“Everyone tries to be helpful, we had people delivering food, but everything remains such a struggle,” she told the Post. “For example, sometimes stores or offices often have English websites and explanations, but then they do not translate the special instruction for the coronavirus emergency which are only published in Hebrew.”
Both Derkash and her husband are originally from the Former Soviet Union: she moved to the US from Ukraine in 1981, he from Russia in 2005.
They are enjoying the ulpan that they have already started taking online.
“We would be happy to celebrate Independence Day, but we are not exactly sure how. Maybe we will watch some parades or ceremonies on TV,” she explained.
As for the coronavirus crisis and the impact that it might have on their aliyah, she is optimistic. “I think everything is going to be ok. This is not my first immigration experience; I know how frustrating but also [how] rewarding it can be.”
The emergency has also affected Miriam Yifrach’s plans in Israel. The 23 year old made aliyah in March from Boston by herself. She lived in the country before between the ages of 7 and 10, and came back for seminary and other occasions.
“I had originally planned to move to Haifa, where I lived when I was younger, but I’m not going to go until the situation settles,” she told the Post, explaining that she has some relatives in Jerusalem, including a brother who is currently serving in the army but lives very close to her when he is home.
“I have not been able to go to synagogue or to the Western Wall since I moved, which is crazy, but most things are working out. I have found an apartment, I was able to get my identity card and now I’m working on health insurance, a bank account and so on,” she said.
For Independence Day, she is considering going to her brother’s apartment which is in walking distance.
“However, I might just stay home. I want to be very responsible when it comes to social distancing. My aunt and uncle had a grandchild before Passover and they have not been able to see the baby yet. It feels selfish to go out when other people can’t.”