The first chartered Aliyah flight of 2009 arrived at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. Two hundred and thirty-two olim (new immigrants) from the United States and Canada were aboard the flight.
The immigrants are the first of 3,000 olim from North America and the United Kingdom to arrive this summer, on the first of 15 chartered Aliyah flights sponsored by the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization and the Jewish Agency.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver were present to greet the new Israelis.
Flight to Include Gilad Shalit's Namesake
One of the new arrivals was three-year-old Gilad Zuller, who was traveling with parents Yehuda and Aviva and his three older siblings. Gilad was named for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped one week before his birth.
After Gilad Zuller was given his name, Yehuda wrote to Noam Shalit and expressed hope that their two sons would meet in the near future. During Yehuda's next trip to Israel, in which he distributed donations during the Second Lebanon War, Noam Shalit drove to Kiryat Shemona to meet him.
The Zuller family has met with Shalit's parents Noam and Aviva several times since then, in both Israel and New York. The Shalit family planned to greet the Zullers on their arrival in Israel.
The Zuller family will settle in Maaleh Adumim, near Jerusalem.
Olim Include Children, Soldiers, One Cat
Forty percent of the new arrivals are children, the youngest a mere seven weeks old. Tuesday's flight also included 60 singles.
Twenty-two of the new arrivals plan to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces. Others will begin jobs in fields ranging from advertising to photography to medicine.
Seven dogs and one cat were on board the Nefesh B'Nefesh flight, heading for their new home in Israel.
Among the 232 arrivals are those hailing from 19 American states and the Canadian city of Quebec. The immigrants are heading for new homes throughout Israel, from the village of Chispin in the Golan Heights to kibbutzim (cooperative communities) in the south.