Just months before yesterday’s tragic attack in Nice, France, The Fellowship helped a Jewish couple living there make aliyah (immigrate to Israel) on a Fellowship Freedom Flight. Their story paints a grim picture of the plight of Jews in Nice, underscoring their need for our assistance and prayers.
“Jews were never much liked in French society,” Rabbi Eliyahu says, “but since the Holocaust we were tolerated, as it became politically incorrect to be outwardly anti-Semitic.”
Rabbi Eliyahu and his wife, Suzan, were both born in France; they have seven children and 15 grandchildren. Three of their children made aliyah about three years ago, and their other children are making plans to move to the Holy Land now.
Rabbi Eliyahu is a rabbi in the southern city of Nice, where he and his wife have lived for the past 20 years. There are around 20,000 Jews in Nice, but many of them are planning to move to Israel.
“We always wanted to make aliyah,” Suzan explains. “But to leave your job and the country where you were raised and educated, and to start from scratch in a place where you can’t even order a pizza or fill out a form at the bank because you can’t speak the language, is extremely difficult,” she continues.
Although their dream of making aliyah preceded the current wave of discrimination and threats toward Jews, the surge in anti-Semitism has definitely played a role in their decision to leave France. “I refused to walk in the streets without a kippah, so I became a target for harassment on the streets of Nice,” Rabbi Eliyahu explains. “My grandchildren, who also wear kippahs, are not allowed to play outdoors and rarely go to a park or walk to a friend’s house.”
Despite the suffocating situation in France, all of the complexities of uprooting their lives seemed overwhelming. But that changed once they met with Yael, the Fellowship representative in charge of French aliyah.
“The Fellowhsip helps each new olim [immigrant] financially by providing them with airfare and a grant to help them get started in Israel, ” Yael explains. “We also offer First Steps seminars, which provide information regarding health care, education, housing options, and job counseling for new olim."
Eliyahu and Suzan are living in their daughter’s apartment in Israel for the time being until they find a home of their own. They are both participating in a Fellowship-funded ulpan (Hebrew language course) for the next six months, and are hoping to reestablish their lives in Israel once they are able to speak Hebrew more fluently.
“I feel like I have been resurrected since coming to Israel, ” Suzan says. “I can finally be who I am, a Jew, who is proud of her heritage and passionate about her faith. I could not hold my head proudly as a Jew in France, and now that I am home in Israel, thanks to The Fellowship, I will never again bow my head in shame in face of anti-Semitism and discrimination.”