Doctors make aliyah from France to serve during the COVID-19 crisis

Doctors and their families take the courageous step of emigrating from France as part of a KKL-JNF project

DR. CHAVA TAMIM and family are all smiles upon arrival in Israel.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
DR. CHAVA TAMIM and family are all smiles upon arrival in Israel.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The coronavirus pandemic has raised awareness of the urgent challenges confronting the Israeli health system, including the shortage of doctors and other healthcare professionals in hospitals and clinics in Israel, particularly in the periphery. In a joint venture with the Nahariya Municipality, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Association for the Absorption of Communities of Israel (Amutat Kehilot Yisrael), which works with French Jews and other French-speaking Jewish communities, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) is currently working to bring doctors from France.
The three-million shekel project was launched to boost the settlement of hundreds of immigrants with academic professions to cities in the Galilee as part of the plan to strengthen the region. As part of the initial pilot, 14 doctors and their families moved to Nahariya three months ago. The pilot is beneficial, both for the periphery, where there is a need for academic professionals – especially those in the medical field – and for the new immigrants themselves, for which their employment and economic futures are assured. They will benefit from the advantages of a community that arrives together and which will receive a quality education.
The absorption process includes meticulous preparation by immigrants for the move, professional guidance, and job-related integration in significant roles in the health system in the North. They will also receive additional financial support until 2023.
DR. TAMIM will soon begin work at an area clinic. DR. TAMIM will soon begin work at an area clinic.
One of the immigrants to Israel as part of this project is Chava Tamim, a family doctor who arrived in Israel in August with her husband and their five children from the Paris suburbs.
“Years ago, my husband wanted to immigrate to Israel,” she says. “But it wasn’t easy leaving our jobs, our family, the house, and cutting the kids off from the life they had there. We feared the bureaucracy and decided to postpone the decision.” When they learned about the emerging pilot project, they didn’t think twice.
“We knew it would be easier to make aliyah as a group,” says Tamim. “We went through all the arrangements together in Paris, including translating diplomas and certificates, contacting a lawyer and notary, and medical committees. Working together gave us the strength to start the process.” The normal concerns that accompany such a transition were compounded by the difficulties following the arrival of the pandemic that silenced the world.
“It was very difficult in France because of corona. All of the institutions were closed, and we had to wait until they opened,” says Tamim. “It was not easy in Israel, either, because children were in quarantine after landing instead of being enrolled in schools. And after three weeks, the closure had already begun.” But the Tamim family is imbued with faith that helps it through this challenging time.
DR. DAN TAYEB with wife and children. (Dan Tayeb)DR. DAN TAYEB with wife and children. (Dan Tayeb)
“IF WE didn’t have faith, we wouldn’t be immigrating to Israel,” says Tamim. She adds that because of the coronavirus, the family could not visit Israel before they immigrated and did not see the town they had chosen until after they had already arrived.
“Moving from Paris to Nahariya is a big change, of course,” she says. “It’s a small town, but it has the advantages of a small city. It doesn’t have traffic jams like a big city, and the quality of life is better.” A year passed from when Tamim and her family decided to make aliyah until they arrived.
“The project manager called me last summer, and we had our first meeting in November, followed by two seminars where we learned about the life that awaited us in Israel, including the medical system, money, housing and bureaucracy,” she says. “We learned a lot and knew what to expect. But of course, we then had to go out into the field and get used to it.” Today, Tamim studies Hebrew in ulpan and will start working in a clinic in the area. Her husband continues to work in France and flies there each month for a week-long stay.
“Despite the difficulties, we are very happy,” she says with a smile. “There are many reasons to feel happy that we are here in Israel. There are kind people here who welcomed us warmly and beautifully and help us with everything we need. The children are delighted to go to the beach, which is 10 minutes from home, and buy groceries on their own at the supermarket. In France, I was afraid to send them unsupervised, and when I got here, I saw that everyone was doing it. There’s a sense of security that I was not aware of. I hope that our beginnings will cause more people to immigrate to Israel.” Dr. Dan Tayeb also welcomed the decision to immigrate to Israel, despite the complex period. Tayeb, his psychologist wife and their two children (a third is on the way) feel that they are finally at home.
“Eight years ago, after we got married, we wanted to make aliyah,” he says. “But the process was then too complex and difficult. Making aliyah as a group made the process much simpler. A year ago, we held meetings and discussed all the issues related to aliyah. They told us in the most concrete way what to expect in Israel, and we received the information we needed so that we would know where we were going.” Tayeb said he had a good life in France, but only in Israel could he and his family fully experience their Judaism.
“I could have earned a lot of money in my job as an anesthesiologist,” he says. “But it wasn’t as important as immigrating to Israel. If there is a price to pay, we’ll pay that price.
“We weren’t afraid for a second. The only thing we were concerned about was being successfully settled in the country.”

Translated by Alan Rosenbaum.

This article was written in cooperation with KKL-JNF.