Even when coronavirus restrictions made entry into Israel nearly impossible, these determined immigrants caught the last available flights to fulfill their dreams of living in the Jewish homeland.
By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler
As coronavirus spread from China to become a global pandemic, bringing the world to a veritable standstill, a determined group of singles, families and elderly with plans to immigrate to Israel found themselves in a dilemma: they either had to postpone their dreams of living in the Jewish homeland indefinitely or fly into high-speed action to catch the last flights out of the US to Israel.
Miriam Yifrach, 23, dreamed of returning to Israel after her family left when she was a youngster. Due to coronavirus, her flight was moved up, leaving her rushing to tie up loose ends and missing an opportunity to say a personal “good-bye” to her mother and grandmother.
“It was hard to leave that way,” Yifrach told United with Israel (UWI). “However, my mom was happy that I was going to Israel, where she felt coronavirus was being handled much better than in the US. We believe Israel is the safest place to be any time, and we trust that the Israeli government is doing all it can to protect its citizens.”
Yifrach is fortunate that she has a brother living in Israel who is serving in the army. She also has many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends in the country.
“I was put into a 14-day quarantine upon my arrival,” she told UWI. “My brother has a close mentor who is like our father figure. He helped get me food and organize my apartment. Everywhere I turn there are organizations and people offering assistance for things that one would not even realize they need, like shampoo.”
Once the situation settles down and Yifrach gets acclimated, she hopes to move to Haifa to enjoy its beaches and to explore all that Israel has to offer.
“The only place I see my life moving forward is in Israel,” she said. “I’m so glad I am here. Everything I do has a purpose here, even the pain and confusion brought on by coronavirus and struggling with a new lifestyle. I am in the proper place for a Jew and with the people I belong. The human kindness here is amazing, and even though I don’t yet really understand what it means to be ‘Israeli,’ I know I am in the right place to be going through [the corona pandemic].”
‘All Jews Should Live in Israel’
Seniors in a second marriage Tamara Levin, originally from the Ukraine, and Yosef Derkach, originally from Russia, braved many challenges to move to Israel in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Their flight was changed four times due to constantly changing restrictions and unclear flight schedules.
“We didn’t finish selling our house before leaving the US so we left it to our lawyer to handle,” Derkach told UWI. “But all Jews should live in Israel and this is the place to be now.”
Levin said that she does not believe the future of the Jewish people is in the US.
“I hope to save the remnants of my descendants from assimilation,” she told UWI. “Even though my grandchildren are not yet moving to Israel, I want them to know they can crash on grandma’s couch here. Jews running from France today may have appreciated if their parents had moved earlier and prepared a landing place for their kids.”
So far, they are managing, even while in quarantine and not speaking Hebrew. “We aren’t young and naive,” Levin said. “We know this will take effort and will come with frustrations, but it’s doable.”
About 1,000 people have moved to Israel since coronavirus regulations were put into place. Expecting a large increase in immigration to Israel once the crisis is over, Diaspora Minister Tzipi Hotovely said at the Israeli government’s Emergency Forum for Jewish Communities on Tuesday, “The corona crisis requires preparations for [new waves of immigration] and a program for meeting the needs of every group of immigrants. Even now, immigration to Israel continues and the State of Israel will always remain open to all Jews of the world,” Arutz7 reported.