ד"ר אלונה קטלניקובה ובתה אנסטסיה
Dr. Alona Katlenikova and her daughter
Photo: Masa Israel Journey
Dr. Alona Katlenikova and her daughter Anastasia

Israel taps Jewish doctors to immigrate and bolster health system

Dr. Alona Katlenikova arrives in Israel with daughter as part of the Masa Israel Journey NGO program; says transition intense and productive, but overall she is happy; hundreds more expected to arrive from former USSR and Latin America

Yuval Niv |
Published: 07.09.22, 19:00
If the Immigration and Integration Ministry would ever need an educated young woman to be an example for a successful Aliyah, they should hire Dr. Alona Katlenikova.
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  • The Jewish doctor from Kazakhstan has been in Israel for eight months, and the only negative thing she can say is that bank officials are a little slow, and they don't bother to serve customers efficiently.
    2 View gallery
    ד"ר אלונה קטלניקובה
    ד"ר אלונה קטלניקובה
    Dr. Alona Katlenikova and her daughter Anastasia
    (Photo: Masa Israel Journey)
    Other than that, Dr. Katlenikova thinks the Israeli health system is quite good, the weather is fine, and the local culture helps her connect with her Jewish roots.
    If all goes well, she will soon pass the final licensing test of the Health Ministry and will become an Israeli doctor, as she tries to fulfill her dream of working in the emergency room at the Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva.
    Dr. Katlenikova, 31, came to Israel as part of the "doctor's journey" program of the Masa Israel Journey NGO which was founded by the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government.
    As part of the program, some 1,000 Jewish doctors from abroad made Aliyah in the past decade.
    This week, the organization announced that in light of the health system's personnel shortage, it decided to expand the program, so in the next few months, 220 additional Jewish doctors are expected to arrive - under the Israeli Law of Return - from former Soviet Republics and 30 others from Latin America.
    The Kazakh doctor first encountered the program four years ago, when Israeli doctors arrived in her hometown of Carengde and gave an emergency medicine course where she worked.
    The idea to move to Israel was not far-fetched for Katlenikova, as her father and grandmother made Aliyah in the 1990s and settled in the city of Beit Shemesh.
    But she couldn't begin the process when it became clear that she would not be able to arrive in Israel with her daughter Anastasia, 10, whom she raises as a single parent.
    2 View gallery
    ד"ר אלונה קטלניקובה ובתה אנסטסיה
    ד"ר אלונה קטלניקובה ובתה אנסטסיה
    Dr. Alona Katlenikova and her daughter
    (Photo: Masa Israel Journey)
    But when the rules were changed, and it was decided that participants could come to Israel with their children, Katlenikova decided to make the move.
    "I felt that our future could be in Israel," she said. "The health system here is much more advanced than in Kazakhstan where only recently a health system was established. Israel has a good health system, and you can see it in the success of cancer treatments and a high life expectancy," she said.
    "I thought it was also a good opportunity for my daughter, and I think I was right. I'm happy. Her absorption was smooth. For her, the transition was a lot easier than it was for me. She just told me she didn't understand why we didn't do it before," Katlenikova added.
    The two arrived at Be'er Sheva, where her daughter began to attend school, and she began to work in Soroka Hospital. Katlenikova concludes her eight months in Israel as "intense and productive".
    Not only did she begin to work as a doctor, but she also studied Hebrew, traveled around the country, and did some medical tours in Israeli hospitals.
    Despite the great differences between Israel and Kazakhstan, she did not experience a cultural shock, as her father told her about the country, so she knew what to expect.
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