'We decided to think about our future rather than our present'

From Paris to Netanya - Steve and Joanna went down the classic path for French Olim; Seven years in, they are confident they made the right choice and relish the Jewish atmosphere in Israel; However, they grapple with high cost of living and remain somewhat isolated in a 'French bubble'; What's their advice for future Olim?
Steve Asulin, 39, and his wife Joanna, 40, made Aliyah from France seven years ago and have since settled in Netanya. The couple has three children, with a fourth on the way. Steve works for an Israeli telemarketing firm focusing on the French market, while Joanna works as a preschool teacher.
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Where are you from in France? "We lived in a suburb called Courbevoie in France."
What made you decide to make Aliyah? “The decision was based on cultural shifts and a feeling we lacked personal safety in France. Our economic situation was good, but we felt the change that was coming and wanted our children to grow up in a different environment. It felt like living a Jewish life in France was becoming more complicated, even though I can’t complain because the Jewish community was very supportive,” Steve says.
“We decided to think about our future rather than our present. My wife lived in Israel when she was young, and wanted us to come here. I didn’t feel the same as things were pretty good in France, but she took this project upon herself and eventually convinced me that we should make Aliyah. A lot of French Jews want to come here but are afraid due to economic reasons,” he adds.
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משפחת אסולין, עולים חדשים מצרפת
משפחת אסולין, עולים חדשים מצרפת
Assolin family. The little son was already born in Israel
You mentioned personal safety, but that’s something Israel also has an issue with. “That’s right,” he says. "But there were terror attacks in France too and the overall social climate was changing, not always in favor of Jews. We thought that as Jews, it would be better for us to live full Jewish lives in Israel, our homeland. I know the security challenges here can be difficult to deal with, but I’d still rather be here. It's hard to explain this rationally, but I feel safer here. Our decision was mainly based on our children's future."
What do you find hard to get used to in Israel? "The fact salaries don’t match the cost of living. Everything keeps getting more expensive, and it's very challenging to buy a house or live comfortably with the current salaries. Most of my friends here are French, and almost all of them continue to work with the French market because it's not easy to find jobs that cover the necessary expenses in the Israeli market,” Steve explains.
“For most of us, our salary depends on the Euro exchange rate, but we can't do much about the shift in exchange rates. Overall, we're managing well. Regarding the Israeli mentality, I think there’s been an improvement in customer service and orientation, but there's still room for improvement in this area to be more similar to Europe. I agree people are more honest and don’t put on fake niceties, but sometimes you require high-quality service.”
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משפחת אסולין, עולים חדשים מצרפת
משפחת אסולין, עולים חדשים מצרפת
Assolin family at the day of Aliyah
Do you feel that your situation in Israel is better than it was in France? "Yes, we've been living in Netanya since we arrived in Israel, and it suits us socially, economically and religiously. It's very comfortable for us because there are many French speakers, and I also pray at the local synagogue, so most of my friends are from the synagogue and the neighborhood. It's like a French bubble, and I admit that I haven't made much effort to integrate into Israeli society, but I'm happy with it for now. My wife speaks fluent Hebrew and handles things when necessary, and I'm trying to slowly improve my language skills," he says.
What's your favorite place in Israel? "I really love Netanya’s beaches, but what I love the most is the sense of sanctity that I feel here. The ability to walk around with a kippah on my head without constantly looking over my shoulder, that feeling of being among other Jews is what matters most to me. I also really enjoy the atmosphere around the holidays and the generally pleasant weather. Most of the time, it's quite nice. I've found places all over the country that I've really enjoyed, and I love discovering new places on every trip."
"You need to be prepared to work hard because it's worth it. Coming to Israel is the right thing to do, but you need to be ready to work and earn a living because life isn’t cheap here'
Do you have any advice for new Olim making their way to Israel? “Israel has become very expensive to live in, and people are afraid they’ll struggle financially. When I came to Israel seven years ago, prices were more bearable. In any case, the advice I can give them is to be prepared to work hard because it's worth it. Coming to Israel is the right thing to do, but you need to be ready to work and earn a living because life isn’t cheap here.”
“We received help from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews when we arrived in Israel through a grant, and we’re still in touch with the organization. It really helped us adjust to Israel.”
Was there a moment where you felt truly Israeli? “Yes, on Israel’s Independence Day. Walking down the streets, waving flags and seeing them slowly fill everything with blue and white colors is something special.”
First published: 11:51, 09.15.23
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