Sep 13, 2010

Daniel Pereg makes aliya

Way to go Daniel. Mazel tov on your aliya!
After a summer of soulsearching, Pereg decided to start the new Jewish year, and his new life, in Jerusalem. He didn’t care that many people recommended he wait two years to finish high school in the States, or that the lastminute decision meant that he and his mother had no apartment lined up and no plans for the new school year when they arrived earlier this month.

“I love it here so much, it’s really my country,” Pereg said. “This is the place I belong. Now I’m trying to see how I can make it.”

The teenager displays a maturity that few his age possess. He knows exactly what he wants: to spend the next two years as a spokesman for Israel and a staunch defender of the Jewish nation, serve in an intelligence unit in the army, and eventually become a member of Knesset. He has business cards that read, “Future Knesset Member – Look for me on Facebook.”

“The aftermath of this video was that it got me a lot of attention,” he said.

“But it also got me a lot of connections with politicians, pro-Israel advocates, people that could connect me to future activism and future goals, future things for Israel and things to benefit the Jewish people.

“I think it helped the pro-Israel cause a lot,” he added. “It was inspiring, and it helped people to know there are Jews who go out of their way to help the Jewish people.”

Pereg said that immediately after the protest, whenever he went to the primarily Jewish parts of Los Angeles, he was recognized and treated like a celebrity.

“In LA, people asked me, ‘What’s your message?’ And I said, ‘There’s one main thing: You should make aliya,’” Pereg said.

“Personally, coming here at the time I came, and the situation I’m in, it’s very hard. That doesn’t mean Israel isn’t the home of every Jew. It just means for me, there’s a difficult situation. But I should be here and I’m going to make it here.”

Pereg was born in Israel but left at age two. He went to public schools in Los Angeles and his family was involved in the Persian Jewish community. Pereg and his mother speak Farsi at home.

Because of his status as a katin hozer – a returning minor – Pereg says he is falling through the cracks and hasn’t been able to get the help he needed from aliya organizations and the state.

He and his mother are still looking for a place to live and a high school for him to attend.

“We’re happy to sit with him and figure out the best path for him to maximize what he can get because that will benefit everyone,” said Renana Levine, spokeswoman for the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliya organization.

She said that 16 was “a problematic age for the Ministry of the Interior” in terms of determining rights, but that the organization would be happy to help guide him through the process.

Pereg and his mother have been helped by the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center, whose volunteers have organized places for the Peregs to stay during their first weeks in the country and have set up meetings with various groups. The core group of volunteers at the center had received a Facebook message that the lone activist from the video wanted to come to Israel but didn’t know what to do, and they jumped at the opportunity to help.

MK Arye Eldad (National Union) has helped the Peregs search for a school.

The holiday season is an especially meaningful time for Pereg to start his life in Israel, he said.

“Rosh Hashana is coming up, and it’s a time people look back on their year and think about the year ahead. A lot of people don’t realize what they have in Israel... Only when coming from [America] do you realize how special Israel really is.”

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