Around 22,000 Swiss citizens live in Israel. We met three of them and talked about their lives, their homesickness and the new paths taken in a new country…
“Here, we live as if today were the last day of our lives” – Tabea (45) and Matthias Oppliger (49) originally came to Tel Aviv for a vacation, but their stay has led to a new life
When, in 2012, these two Swiss citizens discovered Tel Aviv’s poor south for the first time, they were shocked.
“At that time, a large number of African refugees had just arrived in Israel and I saw a side of the country that is usually unknown and difficult to imagine. If a hooker was found dead in a dumpster, nobody would care. recalls Matthias Oppliger.
The couple couldn’t stop thinking about the inhabitants of this totally run-down neighborhood.
The former criminal lawyer and his wife founded the organization ‘Glowbalact’ in Switzerland, whose aim is to combat against human trafficking around the world🇧🇷
Despite not being Jewish, Tabea and Matthias Oppliger decided to emigrate with their three children to Israel, despite the difficulties for non-Jews to obtain a residence and work permit.
The Oppliger family arrived in Tel Aviv at the end of August 2014 to found a social start-up; The ‘Pride of the Pipa’where survivors of human trafficking and prostitution make one-of-a-kind bags out of recycled kite kites, sails, parachutes and wetsuits.
Each bag sold generates jobs and prevents products from ending up in the trash.
Cultural differences caused him problems
Settling in Israel wasn’t always easy. cultural differences and the intensity with which people live often posed problems for Tabea Oppliger.
“The fight starts as soon as you get up,” she explains. The fact is that from the beginning the family came with the aim of staying permanently. “We integrated the children immediately. In the beginning it wasn’t very easy”, recalls Tabea Oppliger. “We are not Jewish and we arrived at the time of the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I’m very good at languages, I speak four, but at first I struggled with Hebrew and I translated everything for my kids using Google translate.”
Tabea Oppliger is now fluent in Hebrew and her three children, aged 17, 15 and 12, are fully integrated into Israeli life.
The family hopes to obtain a new residence permit when it expires, in April 2023, of your work permitI. On the side of shortcomings compared to Switzerland, Tabea evokes the efficiency of its homeland and the competence of its staff. However, she believes that Switzerland has a lot to learn from Israel.🇧🇷 “Israelis are extremely open and warm to each other. We live here like today is the last day of our lives and I think that’s great. 🇧🇷
The two entrepreneurs would like to apply their ‘Kitepride’ business concept to other Israeli cities and even to other countries. “There are so many people living on the margins of society who urgently need this help.”
Start-up website ‘Kitepride’ https://kitepride.com/
“The future of Judaism is in Israel”
“I grew up in Switzerland in an Orthodox home and often felt like a wall separated me from my non-Jewish friends.🇧🇷 The fact that today I return to Switzerland as an Israeli and dialogue with Christians is a form of healing for me”, explains Grabiel Strenger, psychologist and lecturer on Judaism and spirituality.
Gabriel Strenger, who left Basel for Israel after his BA and studied in different yeshivot and universities and who has lived in Jerusalem for many years, enjoys sharing both cultures.
“Israel is my chosen homeland, but my body is at home in Switzerland. When I get off the plane when I arrive in Switzerland, I fully appreciate the freshness of the air. I also feel very connected to Swiss values. I am, for example, a great admirer of democracy in Switzerland. The fact is, for Gabriel Strenger (57), living in Israel was a no-brainer. In the modern Orthodox home he grew up in, Zionism was ubiquitous. His mother started many sentences with: “When we are in Israel…”. Boy, Gabriel Strenger was part of Bnei Akiva Basel and, from the age of 15, attended the famous yeshiva of Montreux. But it was always clear to him that he would one day settle in Israel.
He left there in 1984 to study at Bar Ilan University. “I like the straight side of the Israelis, I like that they don’t pretend to smile and that we easily start a dialogue with passers-by. The other side of the coin is that the contact is sometimes a little rough. Also, I miss German TV. In Germany there is a show called Literary Quartet. Scholars talk about literature and this program is watched by many viewers for whom literature is important. This type of program would be unthinkable in Israel says the author of several books.
Thanks to his activity, Gabriel Strenger often travels to Switzerland. He even received several very interesting job offers, all of which he turned down.🇧🇷
Gabriel Strenger, who is divorced and a father of five, believes that it is a luxury for him to live in Israel while frequently working for Switzerland and Germany🇧🇷
But Israel will always remain its anchor. “For me, Zionism is an active participation in Israel’s future. We Jews should not passively wait for salvation to come from heaven, but rather influence our future. From my point of view, the future of Judaism lies exclusively with Israel.”
Gabriel Strenger is one of the protagonists of the new documentary ‘Where is
God ? ‘, which will air in December.
Gabriel Strenger website https://www.gabriel-strenger.com
“I still say that I am Swiss”
Source: israel between the lines
Gabrielle Neuhaus, dancer and actress, came to Israel over thirty years ago for love. Originally from Bienne in the canton of Bern, Gabrielle Neuhaus studied dance in Belgium, London and Paris where she worked, as well as in Switzerland. In Israel, the artist was faced with the need to start over professionally. 🇧🇷
At the time, there were few contemporary dance theaters, not to mention that I was pregnant, which doesn’t make things any easier when you’re a dancer.
Thirty years later, Gabrielle Neuhaus has built a life in Israel by undertaking numerous projects. She works and writes in Hebrew and performs her projects on various Israeli stages.🇧🇷
Recently, their documentary ‘Stand by’, which interviews women who, like them, have come to Israel for love, was screened at the Saint-Jean d’Acre festival. “I asked these women, some of whom also lived in the Arab community, what they knew about Israel before they came, how they felt at the beginning and how they feel today. The reactions are very diverse. Some love it, some hate it.”
Gabrielle Neuhaus’s relationship with Israel remains complicated. When she separated ten years ago from the Israeli father of her two daughters, she realized that she didn’t want to go back to Switzerland. “I was 50 at the time and I couldn’t start all over again.” However, she then decided that she must change her relationship with Israel. “I thought that if I stayed here, I would have to take responsibility, that I could no longer hide behind my husband and say that I only lived here because of him 🇧🇷 She started to learn Arabic to establish contact with that part of Israeli society as well.
She loves Israel’s energy and efficiency
She continues to love Israel’s energy and efficiency and the fact that it constantly has to reinvent itself. 🇧🇷 Here we are more spontaneous, more flexible, faster. Decisions are immediately followed by effect “. However, she continues to regularly consider returning to Switzerland. “I still define myself today as a Swiss citizen with an Israeli passport. I never felt like an Israeli.”
For her ‘Stand by’ project, she also wants to speak in Switzerland with women who have come to accompany their partners. “I get homesick when I think about everything I love about Switzerland: punctuality, modesty, genuine listening. Switzerland may not be at all what I imagine it to be, but I want to at least test whether Switzerland still suits me”.