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Faces of The Fellowship: Joana

Faces of The Fellowship: Joana (photo: IFCJ)

Joana is a 26-year-old immigrant from the Spanish city of Melilla. She recently made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) by herself on a Freedom Flight provided by The Fellowship. She feels very blessed to join such a supportive and faithful Jewish community in the Holy Land.

“I am newly religious and there's not a supportive Jewish community in Melilla for a Jew who wants to live a religious life. It's a very small city with only 800 Jews. There are a few synagogues, one Jewish school, and some stores where it's possible to buy kosher food. It's not very much. It's what the community needs, but I want more.”

Joana explains that she is a Sephardic Jew, a Jew who can trace her lineage to the Jewish community expelled from Spain in 1492. In Melilla, she always observed Shabbat (Sabbath) and kept kosher. But what strengthened her faith the most was her desire to pray for her father and ask God to bless him by healing his illness.

“He was sick and I started to pray more and that drew me closer to God. Thank God his health is now improving.”

A year and a half ago Joana decided to move to Israel to study the Bible in a Jewish college for women. "I learned the Torah during the day and studied Hebrew at an ulpan (intensive Hebrew school) in the evening. Learning Hebrew was essential for me because living in Israel without knowing Hebrew or English – even though I do speak French – wasn't going to work. In Israel you need to know either Hebrew or English.”

Joana traveled back to Melilla for Passover, and while she was back home, she completed the aliyah process with The Fellowship.

When asked how her parents feel about the fact that their daughter has made aliyah, Joana replies, “They're okay with it. They know that I'm safe here; they know that I'm happy.”

She’s left behind both her parents, as well as her brothers, grandparents, and uncles. She misses them very much, but knows her true home is in Israel.

In Melilla, Joana worked as a dental assistant. "I expect to begin working in that field immediately,” she says confidently. “I don't need to take any requalification exams here in Israel.”

Joana continues: "I hope my transition into the Israeli culture will be easy, even though I know it won't be easy. Everything here is new. It's scary.”

But even though starting over can be difficult for new olim (immigrants), Joana says that the aliyah process itself with The Fellowship was very smooth. “The entire Fellowship staff is very nice. They were all very helpful at every stage of the process. Thank you for helping make this possible.” And she knows she can always rely on The Fellowship for support in Israel.

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