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Aliyah: Roseanne, Ethiopians, and the French

imageYears before we arrived, one of the things I said I would miss the most is French.  Turns out I might not have to give it up after all.

Batya asks this week on her Israel blog Shiloh Musings, “From where will the next wave of immigrants come?”  I’m going to spoil her surprise – the answer is France. 

She’s not alone in thinking that:  this Tablet Magazine article blames the 63% increase in French aliyah in 2013 – up to 3,120 – on economic malaise in Europe and rising antisemitism in France.

Most and Least Favoured

3,120 olim – and exactly one of them has made it into my ulpan, by the way.  As favoured Western olim, they most likely have ideas about where they’d like to settle.  And the Krayot are not where they’re going to end up.

Meanwhile, stories like this one about nearly 4,000 Ethiopian Jews who have appealed to come in since Ethiopian aliyah was officially closed last year receive significantly less attention.

Up around here, we get a lot more of the Ethiopian olim, and those from the Former Soviet Union (a flood which doesn’t seem to be stopping) than those from France or the United States.  Not necessarily because the region appeals to them for any particular reason – just that they don’t have as much choice.

That article answered some of the questions that I had about the incoming Ethiopian olim, anyway… like, where are they coming from and why are they still arriving? 

The Klitah Machine

It is heartbreaking, sometimes, watching these Ethiopian families struggle to manage here.  The parents are often illiterate – both Akiva and I have been approached in the grocery store to interpret packages or prices for Ethiopian shoppers. 

But the Klitah (absorption) machine eventually works its magic on all of us, some more quickly than others, and it is also very, very nice seeing how well some of the second generation are getting along. 

One of my students is “Ethiopian,” but even her mother speaks Hebrew like a native – way better than I do, that’s for sure. 

I figure she must have arrived as a child, like Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata, who has railed against a system which doesn’t let her donate blood in Israel because she’s from Ethiopia – even though she’s lived here since she was 3.

“I am good enough to serve the state and in the Knesset,” Tamano-Shata told Ynet. “But for some reason to give blood I am not good enough. This is insulting.”

I disagree with her that this is racism; I suspect bureaucratic idiocy.  I’m not saying there isn’t racism here, or that it isn’t blatant, but I don’t think this is a country that would waste precious donated blood for anything other than the most idiotic reasons.

And there is no denying that, racism or not, Ethiopian Jews – at least those who have survived a generation or two – have reached a reasonable level of success here.  Again, the Klitah machine, chugging along, turning out Israelis (mainly through its school system and the army).

…And Celebrity Aliyah

However, without any involvement in those two primary means of Klitah, it remains to be seen how well the government will manage to absorb Roseanne Barr if she goes ahead with her hinted plans to make aliyah in 2014. 

Will she get sent to the north, like us and the Ethiopians?  Or find her way to some shiny American community full of sculptures and treed roundabouts in the merkaz (centre of the country)?


Okay, it doesn’t remain to be seen… we know which she’ll pick, and it won’t be Haifa.

Nevertheless, it makes me happy that the Knesset is considering a bill to make the 10th of Nissan “Yom Haaliyah,” a national holiday celebrating immigration to Israel.

"Yom HaAliyah is a chance for Israel to reach out to all Jews throughout the world and say that Israel is not a place for them to just consider living in; this is their Home… with this new national holiday, the Jewish People can celebrate Israel as the country to come to by choice, not just as a refuge from adversity.”

Our stories are all so different, but ultimately, this country draws us in and slowly, slowly, knits us into a people again.  It may be a Disneyfied oversimplification, but I believe with all my heart that it not only will happen, it is happening here every single day.

And I feel so honoured to be a part of it.


  1. Wonderful post. You sound like a vatika.

    1. Yeah, because I'm kvetching about the next generation of olim... ! :-)

  2. About 1/2 my ulpan class (30 students) is now from France - while only 5 of us started back in September! I also feel the French aliyah around my neighbourhood, mid Tel Aviv, where the French bakeries and restaurants abound...

    1. Fascinating! Do you find you're able to communicate with them in French? Mine is severely impaired right now because of the intensity of my Hebrew study, but it is slowly coming back...


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