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Aliyah Expos reveal A-Z of immigration to Israel

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Walking into the Aliyah Expo in Johannesburg and Cape Town last week was like taking a trip into a real-life encyclopaedia for aliya, say participants, with information on just about any aspect of making a home in Israel.

The smorgasbord of information left people feeling sated in spite of not being thrilled about the protesters shouting outside the building.

“In spite of the gathering of angry and misinformed protesters outside, the Cape Town and Johannesburg Jewish community walked with their heads held high, with dignity, through the hate, to be welcomed into a space of warmth, safety, joy, and optimism,” said Ziva Taitz, the head of the aliya department at the Israel Centre on the expos held in Cape Town on 4 April and Johannesburg on 7 and 8 April.

“It was a place where people could make plans for a future in which they can grow and flourish. This is a microcosm of what Israel represents to us. It holds our core values as a resilient and spirited people,” she said.

“In the face of adversity and isolation, with certain groups trying to hold us back, intimidate us, and ultimately destroy us, we continue to move forward. While we’re returning to our ancient homeland, it’s not a move back into the past but toward the future, not only geographically but spiritually in our journey of making aliya,” Taitz said.

Attendees of the expo were given information about what the process is like and how to kickstart their journey. They were introduced to various elements of the process, including programmes offered to olim upon their arrival, educational opportunities, career opportunities, and everything in between.

“There’s something here for everyone making aliya, seeking to make aliya, or even contemplating the prospect of making aliya,” one attendee said.

“I came today to assess my options in terms of the processes and benefits of an oleh,” another said.

Attendees were able to roam the halls and talk to various representatives from private companies; universities; the Nahariya, Arad, and Haifa municipalities; educational programmes; the ministry of aliya and integration; as well as delegates from the Jewish Agency and Telfed.

In addition to having private talks with the delegates, attendees could attend lectures on specific fields, ranging from basic information about documents and eligibility for aliya, to programmes for medical practitioners and the experience of working in Israel, and how the country’s tax system works.

Said Dorron Kline, the chief executive of Telfed, “During the days of the expo, I interviewed 82 family units, gave three public lectures with more than 100 participants, and spoke at various other community functions. The amount of information that the South African Jewish community has received to make the aliya dream become reality is tremendous.

“A poignant incident during my many interviews was a young gentleman who came to see me with no idea of how to make his dream of aliya into a reality,” Kline said. “After a 20-minute discussion, he left with a seven-year plan detailing all he needed to do to make his life successful in Israel.”

One of the most popular lectures was given by members of the aliya and integration ministry specifically directed at South African medical practitioners, giving them information about the opportunities they may have in Israel. This was an important part of the expo, as in the words of incoming Israel Centre Director Dafna Kremer, “Israel is looking for doctors because there are lots of injured people that need medical help. We’re also aware that in South Africa, the level of academic studies in medical schools is high.”

The venue was covered with reminders of the war in Gaza, with hostage posters plastered on the walls, and attendees given pins with yellow ribbons.

“Ever since 7 October, South Africa hasn’t necessarily felt like home,” one attendee said. “That date sparked a feeling in me that I wanted to be in Israel, surrounded by people who have similar values.”

Many attendees, although not having a set date for aliya, were interested in looking at all the options they had to make the leap.

“This is the first step in my aliya journey, and now I feel like I can start planning for this big change,” said another attendee.

“We can now expect a big increase in aliya from South Africa,” said Kline. “But it’s not enough. We want those who make aliya to be better educated about the process, making the chances of a successful and smooth absorption that much higher.”

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