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The #etnographquarantinedan, Episode 3: Raphael, 19, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The conversation was held in English and Hebrew.

Raphael and I talked on Saturday evening. The photo, however, was taken on Sunday since Raphael is a religious Jew who keeps the laws and customs of Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath). Raphael, whose grandparents immigrated to Brazil from Lodz, Poland, grew up in a religious family and community in Rio de Janeiro. He attended a Jewish school and acquired basic Hebrew. His Hebrew significantly improved over the past year when he was studying in a yeshiva (a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts) in Israel, after which he decided to make aliyah. 

Both of Raphael's siblings are also religious and live in Israel. His brother lives in Raanana and his sister in a religious kibbutz called Kvutzat Yavneh, and he has come to visit them several times in the past. His parents still live in Rio de Janeiro, but they are also planning to make aliyah once Raphael's father retires and thus be reunited as a family.

In the coming autumn, he will start his studies in computer sciences at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT). He chose JCT because its programs provide ultra-orthodox men with the opportunity to pursue an academic degree in combination with in-depth Torah studies. 

A few months ago, having finished his yeshiva studies and decided to immigrate to Israel, he returned to Brazil to sort out all his belongings and visit his parents. While visiting, he contracted the coronavirus and infected his mother; "thank God," they had mild symptoms and the illness was relatively easy, "a little fever and that was it." In light of his recovery, I wondered why he needs the 14 days of quarantine. Raphael laughed and said, "Yes, it’s Israeli bureaucracy at work." Raphael says he doesn't know of anyone from Rio de Janeiro who has died from COVID-19. He told me that the Jewish community there is trying to return to their regular pre-COVID routine and reopen the synagogues.

He immigrated to Israel as part of the International Fellowship of Christian and Jews "On Wings of Eagles" programme that helps Jews to make aliyah. He arrived in Israel together with a group of 25 young people from all over Brazil, who are all in separate rooms in the Dan Hotel. He doesn't know the other Brazilian immigrants, has no contact with them during the quarantine, and doesn’t think he will after he leaves the hotel.

Raphael told me that Shabbat was incredibly difficult for him in self-isolation. While being isolated is mentally challenging enough during the week, throughout Shabbat, alone and unable to use a computer or telephone, he struggled emotionally and felt very lonely.

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