Jewish Brazilians are no strangers to violent street crime, and over two months of Palestinian terrorism is not deterring them from coming to Israel in larger numbers.
“The current stabbing wave here does not scare us at all,” Silvia Brafman told The Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “What really frightens me most is the language, which can delay my entering the job market.” Brafman, 33, who moved to Haifa in October with her husband, cited job opportunities as her second reason for leaving Brazil for Israel.
Rita Cohen Wolf settled in Raanana in 1977 after she had been robbed eight times in Brazil. The last time, she had a gun pointed at her head, she told JTA.
“In Brazil, violence is felt every day,” Wolf says. “In Israel, we don’t feel threatened with imminent violence. The feeling of security with our police and army plus unity of the population reinforces the generalized feeling that we are not alone.”
Brazil has earned an unenviable reputation as one of the most dangerous places on Earth, racking up over 58,000 violent deaths in 2014.
As for the economy, recent statistics are emigration motivators. Brazil has been struggling with recession, and the economy is forecast to shrink by almost 2 percent this year – down from more than 7 percent GDP growth in 2010.
It is, therefore, perhaps small wonder that immigration to Israel has more than doubled in the past four years, from 191 in 2011 to over 400 so far this year. The average growth in immigration to Israel for all of Latin America in the same period was just 7 percent. An estimated 120,000 Jews live in Brazil.
Not all the new immigrants have come to Israel just to get out of Brazil; some seek a better life spiritually as well as materially.
Fabio Erlich, 33, moved last year with his wife and three daughters to Modiin, from where he commutes to jobs at two yeshivos in Yerushalayim.
“We wanted to give our children a better quality of life in the educational, social and religious fields,” Erlich said. “Israel allows you to be a Jew with no limitations, not only in the outside but mainly deep within.”
Their move to Israel was a dream come true, he said.