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The #etnographquarantinedan, Episode 8: Yuri Platner de Oliveira, 22, Hotel Worker, Rio de  Janeiro, Brazil

Yuri is a member of the hotel staff whose job it is to knock on our doors and offer to sell us drinks or refreshment from a cart full of treats. 

The conversation was held in English.

Yuri's mother is Jewish and his father is Catholic. Although his mother comes from an orthodox family and during his early childhood they used to go to synagogue, at some point his mother gave up Judaism and the family chose a more liberal direction.

Yuri immigrated to Israel almost two years ago and lives in Ramat Aviv. He came to Israel to get away from the political situation in Brazil. For him, the opportunity to immigrate to Israel is one of the benefits of being a Jew. He graduated from high school in Brazil and studied biology in Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. He is working at the hotel while awaiting his army conscription, which is scheduled for November. "I'm trying to get used to the idea of serving in the army and to the mentality of being a soldier. I know there's a lot of brainwashing and I am not comfortable with it, but it is an important part of coming to Israel and being part of society."

I was wondering what it is like to work in a hotel during COVID-19. "At first, it was tough; corona patients populated the hotel. They were free to walk around, come out of their rooms, stay in the corridor, play ping-pong, and go down to the yard to smoke. After that, the hotel changed its purpose to accommodate only immigrants and people returning from abroad and now everyone is locked in their rooms. Still, it's fun to see people from different parts of the world and hear other languages. It’s interesting. In terms of the workers themselves, no one was fired. We are divided into two teams. The yellow team, like me, is in touch with people, and the green section is behind the scenes – the ones who prepare the food and deal with cleaning."

I ask Yuri to tell me an interesting story he had experienced during his work. "I met Matteo, my counsellor from the Rio de Janeiro Hashomer Hatzair [a socialist-zionist secular Jewish youth movement]. It was nice. I knocked on the door, and he opened it. It was such a surprise and so funny, we shared some memories from the past, like how bad I was at football."

How did your parents react to your decision to immigrate to Israel? "My dad was a little sad, but he is emotionally strong. My mother didn't take it so lightly. I think she never got used to the fact that I am all grown up, she hasn't cut the umbilical cord between us. After graduating from high school, I wanted to come for a year to work in a kibbutz but I couldn't – I was afraid she wouldn't be able to handle it.  She was afraid that in Israel I would become a socialist and a communist, so I said to her, "But Mum, I'm already a socialist!"

I asked Yuri what his experience of Israel was so far. "In Brazil, there is more individualism. Here, if you drop your wallet on the street, everyone will bend down to help you find it. It feels like everyone here is part of a big family. The bus driver is your uncle; the guy that sells sausages is like your brother. When there is a missile siren, everyone runs to the bunker, the same bunker, and it creates a sense of solidarity and collectivity. Brazil still has more self-centeredness. Brazil is more like the United States than Israel."

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