The #etnographquarantinedan, Episode 1: Dolly, 78, Milan, Italy
The conversation was held in English.
Dolly is 78 years old. She immigrated to Israel (made aliyah) from Milan, Italy. She is single and does not have children. She was born into a big family in Libya. Some of her relatives immigrated to Israel in 1948 and live in Netanya and Ashdod. Others left Libya and settled in different parts of Italy – in the case of her parents, Milan. Her siblings and their children are still living there.
Dolly did not share her plan to make aliyah with anyone in her family. She kept it a secret, fearing that they would try to dissuade her. On Friday, she went to Shul (a Yiddish word for synagogue) and invited all the family over for couscous (a traditional Maghrebi dish). On Sunday, she boarded a plane to Israel. Only when she arrived at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv did she call her family: "Now, you will have a place to come and visit me in Israel. My house is always open to you."
I asked her why she decided to immigrate now. "There was a massive Covid-19 outbreak in Milan. People are not cautious enough. I was at home for three weeks with a dislocated shoulder, and I didn’t dare go to the hospital. Luckily, I had some neighbours who brought me food. Also, the Jewish community is scattered and mostly out of touch. We only meet on special occasions. I used to go to the shul to clean my uncle's Torah scroll. The rabbi [the only person who knew of her plans] said that he would clean it for me now. There are also many Arabs in Milan, and I started to feel a sense of eeriness and fear." I told her: "You know, there are also many Arabs here in Israel; they are part of the country." To that, she responded: "Yes, but it is different because here, in Israel, it is my home. We are the lords of the land. We are the rulers.
Dolly's life has been full of hurdles. She worked for several years in a factory. After being fired, she decided to turn her sewing skills into a small business and made her living from small sewing jobs. "My life has not been easy, but I always wanted to make it on my own. I realised that nobody could help me, only I could help myself, and I want nobody's favours. There is no messiah, and no one is waiting for you. Whatever you make for yourself, that is what you will have."