For Mauricio Glucksman, 20, who made aliyah this week, the path to Israel has been anything but ordinary.
Glucksman was born in Caracas, Venezuela, to a wealthy Jewish family. At the age of 8, in a scene reminiscent of the scripted Spanish-language soap operas called telenovellas, he was kidnapped just outside his family home. "It was real helI and I was afraid they were going to kill me," Glucksman said. "In retrospect I realize it was an 'express kidnapping,' where assailants hang around affluent communities and kidnap in order to quickly and easily attain ransom money. They put a bag over my head and held me for more than nine hours before my parents were able to pay them."
Glucksman's parents managed to get their son back, but the violence and drama was just beginning.
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Four years later, Glucksman and his parents were in their house when a violent gang broke in, tied them up, and proceeded to loot their home while they could only watch on helplessly. Glucksman was 12.
Fearing further violence, Glucksman's parents moved the family to Mexico. For Glucksman, the transition was especially tough. The move left him without a strong Jewish community, and he struggled to hold on to his Jewish identity.
Glucksman looked to Israel for refuge. He enrolled in a MASA program affiliated with the Jewish Agency and the government of Israel. Glucksman completed the program feeling more connected to his Jewish heritage than ever, and this week, he made aliyah and became Israel's newest South American immigrant.
"I have loved Israel since I was a child," Glucksman said on Tuesday. "I am sure that Israel is the place for all world's Jews," adding, "Only in Israel can I feel really at home. I plan on living on Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael and volunteering for the paratroopers' brigade. I hope to enroll in an officers training course during my military service, and also sign up to be part of the IDF's standing army."