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More Canadians than ever make aliyah this year

ספטמבר 18, 2008. Canadian Jewish News: Carolyn Blackman
TORONTO — Lian Sela, director of the Israel Aliyah Centre Toronto and Western Canada, has some good news.

By the end of September, more olim will have left Canada for Israel than in all of 2007.

She said that while 215 people made aliyah through her office last year, she forecasts that by the end of the year at least 230 people will have made the move.

She does not have a clear reason for the jump in numbers, she said during a recent interview that included five people who are planning aliyah in the next couple of months, but cites Israel’s 60th anniversary as a possible reason.

“All the events may have subconsciously tweaked people’s desire to live in Israel.”

Zionism has many different colours, she said. “We see people from all walks of life – young people who have taken part in programs in Israel, those who were born in Israel and want to make aliyah, young families and retired couples.”

Sela said that making aliyah is easier now because technology has made the world smaller. “Its easy to keep in touch with family and friends.

“It can also be done in stages. People can spend time volunteering in the summer, or they can make a ‘mini-aliyah,’ in which they have a second home in Israel. There are many different ways to do it.”

Josh Zweig, 24, who has been on a number of TaglitBirthright Israel trips as a participant and as a leader, is moving to Israel in October. Aliyah was not always on his mind, said Zweig, a business graduate from the University of Western Ontario, “but I met a lot of Israelis when I was travelling through [such places] as Hawaii, Fiji, South America and India. Not only did my Hebrew improve, I realized I could really identify with these people. We saw eye to eye.”

He’s moving “a little bit ahead of schedule,” but he has been working at an accounting firm, he said, “and I need a change. I have a job interview set up in Israel, but for the first time in my life I have no direct plan. I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my life.”

Correcting himself, he said that he does have one plan. “I’m going to get some proper hummus – the best I’ve ever tasted.”

Kelly Levy, 25, returned from Israel at the end of July after spending six months as a photography intern and is now making aliyah. “I had considered aliyah for a long time, but living there, I really got a feel for what it is like. I plan to do an ulpan, and then as a new immigrant I can attend university for free.”

She has friends and family in Israel, she said, and she is looking forward to “living in Tel Aviv, going to the beach, and having an adventure. People feel safer in Israel now – tourists are everywhere.”

Sara Greenwood, 24, spent the past year in Israel studying for a master’s degree in neurobiology at Hebrew University, and is returning to Israel as an olah. “I plan to finish my master’s degree, and then I’ll decide if I’ll pursue a PhD,” she said. “I feel like I’m returning home. When my parents visited me, they said they could see that Ibelonged there.”

Daniel Bernstein, a software developer, is making aliyah in December with his wife and two young daughters. “My parents are from Israel, and they’ve instilled in me a love for the country. They are living there now, and my two siblings are there as well.”

He and is wife have talked about moving for three years, he said, and “we knew we had to set a date. Finally, we just decided to do it.

“I look forward to seeing my family, and I look forward to raising my children in an environment where they can feel  completely at home. Even though the language is new, there is a complete comfort level in Israel.”

Visiting Israel previously, he said, he had always felt like a visitor. “One event changed my perspective. When I visited my sister’s office – she does the same thing I do – I saw people doing what I do for a living. I saw myself in that office. It changed my whole way of thinking.”

Nicki Weinberg, a library technician, has four daughters aged 19 to 25 who have all made aliyah, and she is moving there in December.

“I’m excited to be with my family, but I’m not only going for them. It is important for me to be there, and for them to be there,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to contributing to Israel. Right now, I feel like my foot is in both countries. I can’t wait to make the leap.”

 

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