In May of 2014, Sarah Tamim, a 27-year-old Parisian native and French teacher in a Paris school where the majority of the students were Muslim was asked by her pupils if she was Jewish. They had Googled a picture of her holding an Israeli flag. The day after the question was asked, Tamim was horrified to find her name painted on a large wall along with the names of her two Jewish colleagues next to a swastika. The school did not address the incident formally, encouraging Tamim not to make a fuss over the incident and let the administration paint over the Nazi symbol.
Tamim, the guest speaker at a UJA Young Leaders meeting on July 5, said, that the fact that the school chose to dismiss the act and simply paint over the swastika, is a reflection of the general attitude towards anti-Semitism in France.
Feeling alone and disturbed by the indifference of the school toward the hateful graffiti and the anti-Semitism in French society, Tamim decided to fulfill her childhood dream and make aliyah to Israel. She arrived a few months later at Beit Brodetsky, a live-in immersion program funded by the Jewish Agency and sponsored by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. Monies raised by the Jewish Agency, “build and fund Brodetsky, which facilitates the integration and cultural acclimatization of hundreds of immigrants into Israel.”
Arriving with just her suitcase, hope and determination to succeed in making aliyah, Tamim studied in an intensive ulpan for six months, learning to speak Hebrew, with 150 other new immigrants to Israel from countries around the world. “I didn’t make aliyah simply because of the hateful act of my students or my school in France. I’m part of the last generation who will make aliyah by choice. In a few years, maximum 10 years, there will be no choice, due to the escalating situation against the Jewish People in France,” Tamim said.
Regarding her new life in Israel, she said “there are two aspects that make a successful aliyah.” One is to be a Zionist. “If you don’t love this country more than you love yourself, it will be a hard life, you won’t succeed.” Adjusting to the change in mentality and lifestyle in Israel and readily adopting the Hebrew language, in Tamim’s mind is the second and most important aspect of a successful cultural acclimatization for new immigrants.
Thankful she could now be her best self, living in Israel, Tamim paid forward the essential assistance the Jewish Agency provided her, by volunteering with Beit Brodetsky and helping other new immigrants acclimate as well. She is finding additional fulfillment in sharing her story and helping to defend the country she loves by working in the field of intelligence.