Israel Story

Alone, Together—Part VII: Something Like a Brother

Stories matter. They have the power of connecting us over time and space. And in the finale of our miniseries, we see how a podcast episode turned two strangers—a man from Migdal HaEmek, Israel, and a woman from Porto Alegre, Brazil—into soul mates.

September 22, 2020

Porto Alegre is a large city in the south of Brazil, a five-hour drive from the border with Uruguay. Five rivers converge there, making it an important center of industry and commerce. Though its name means “joyful harbor,” in 2017 Porto Alegre ranked as the world’s 39th most violent city, with nearly 41 homicides per 100,000 residents. And while the city does have a sizable Jewish community, primarily Eastern Europeans who founded the local União Israelita association and settled in the Bom Fim neighborhood, there are no direct flights from Porto Alegre to Tel Aviv. So why, you might wonder, is Porto Alegre featured in the final episode of a series exploring life in Israel during the pandemic?



It’s because it is home to Isabel Christina de Oliveira, a 54-year-old public school teacher. She isn’t Jewish and has never been to Israel. But through Israel Story, and over Zoom, she found an unlikely friend with whom she could share a terribly painful experience.

Back in March, Isabel traveled to Italy. Unbeknownst to her, she contracted the virus in Bergamo, and brought it back to Brazil. She was the first COVID-19 patient in her region. And though she immediately went into quarantine, she was publicly shamed and blamed, especially on social media. Vicious posts accusing her of infecting the country made her feel incredibly guilty.

If all that sounds familiar, you are not mistaken: In episode 52, “In The Beginning,” we told a similar story about Roni Bargill, Israel’s patient No. 7. Under normal circumstances, Isabel and Roni would have never met. But Isabel’s daughter’s friend, a Brazilian journalist by the name of Giovana Fleck, listened to the Israel Story episode, and translated it for Isabel. The emotional upheaval they had each experienced was uncannily similar.

That’s where the Israel Story team came in once again, arranging a Zoom call that left everyone in tears.

Joel Shupack scored and sound-designed this episode with music from Blue Dot Sessions, and Sela Waisblum created the mix. The end song, “Kore Li Kol” (A Voice is Calling) is by Dotan Moshonov.

Listen to the episode here, or download it from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. You can hear all of Israel Story’s episodes in English here and in Hebrew here.

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