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The #etnographquarantinedan, Episode 11: Keren Lynn Amouyal, 25, Montreal, Canada

Like Tomer (Episode 10), Keren also wondered whether her personal story was interesting.

The conversation was held in English and Hebrew.

Keren was born in Israel and lived in Yavne until the age of six. In 2000, her family emigrated to Canada in search of a better economic future. Since then, they have visited Israel every year and preserved their Judaism and Israeliness: they speak Hebrew at home, and Keren went to Jewish Moroccan-French schools in Montreal. She came to Israel with her father (who is also in the hotel in another room on a different floor) for the wedding of her brother, who returned to Israel 10 years ago. Her mother will join them at the end of the month. After the wedding, her parents will return to Canada, while she will remain in Israel.

Keren graduated last year with an art and photography degree from a college in New York and returned to Montreal last January. "Just a few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic started, and it was hard. Although the Canadian quarantine was not as harsh as the Israeli one and masks were not mandatory everywhere, people still kept a distance and were cautious. Anyway, it's part of the culture, the distance. Canadians have more patience and are used to being half the year inside. I don't want to think about what the winter is going to look like."

Why did she decide to return to Israel? "I couldn't see a future for myself in Canada anymore. After living in Montreal and Manhattan and travelling to different places around the world, I came to the conclusion that Israel is the best place to fulfil my dream of getting married and starting a home. Everyone here is family. You know, there are many people, friends of mine from Canada, who are happy for me that I am making aliyah; surprisingly, it's my own family and other people from Israel who can't understand my decision. It's an awful feeling like someone has shot an arrow into my heart."

"I think that COVID-19 has shocked people, and there is a huge spike in the number of people making aliyah now. People understand that there is no country like Israel. Even though life in Israel can be complicated, it feels like we are all together. In other countries, it's the perception of every person for themselves. I really hope that more Jews will come to Israel. It's like a soldier coming home to his mother's cooking… (she adds with a big laugh) only if he is a Sephardi Jew, of course."

How are you spending your time in quarantine? "I try to take photos of people on the balconies, everyone coming out for the sunset, so it's a good time to take some nice photos. Unfortunately, I am still suffering from jet lag, I just got up from a nap [it was now 7 pm]. I am dealing with the immigration bureaucracy and talking to my family. Thank God, I have many things to do. I also enjoy my alone time. I feel good alone. I do like being with people but also being alone. It doesn't bother me."

What about your plans for the future? "I want to live in Jerusalem, even though my parents are not in favour. I'm in the process of searching for my Judaism, and I want to learn and expand my knowledge, to make friends for myself. It's part of what I am doing in quarantine – I'm searching. The one thing I know for sure is that I have been studying all my life, even though my family doesn't always understand why. I think I'm still studying because it is the only thing I'm 100% sure that I like doing, even if society doesn't accept it, especially when you are women of 25."

On Friday, we received a huge box of gourmet food from my research partners. Some 15 minutes later, another bag of treats landed on our doorstep from a close friend. I sneaked out of our room and left a bag full of food for Shabbat outside Keren's room. At midnight on Saturday, Keren slipped the watercolour painting of me (attached here) under our door. On the back, she wrote a dedication. It's the best souvenir I could have got from my stay in quarantine. ❤

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