El Al flight LY3004 landed this morning at Ben Gurion Airport with 231 new Israeli citizens aboard - including a record number of children.
Even before they took off, the passengers knew not to expect getting much sleep, as close to 50% of the occupants were children - a new record for a Nefesh B'Nefesh aliyah flight, in cooperation with The Jewish Agency for Israel.
The 106 young Olim are joining a whopping 989 children who will be making Aliyah throughout 2013 with Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel and JNF. This is an increase of 20%, compared to 822 children that made Aliyah in 2012.
In anticipation of the arrival, Nefesh B’Nefesh prepared reinforcements to help parents watch over their children and keep them occupied during the long flight and at the arrival ceremony. Among the activities that awaited the children were Aliyah coloring books, games and custom-made t-shirts. Former Israeli IDF captive, Gilad Shalit, also joined the flight as a show of support and appreciation for the thousands of North American Olim who are fulfilling their dream to return to Israel and their contribution to the State of Israel.
Also on board were 41 families, including the 106 children as well as 54 singles - 13 of whom will be joining the IDF. Also of note were the 41 Olim moving to Israel’s periphery as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh and Keren Kayemeth L’Israel's "Go North" and "Go South" programs.
“As we welcome our 35,000th Oleh, it is exciting to see so many children among the modern day Zionist pioneers, who are helping to build and secure the future of the State of Israel”, said Co-Founder and Chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Tony Gelbart. “This new generation is joining young adults volunteering for the IDF and Olim moving to Israel’s North and South to help strengthen the periphery, to infuse the country with renewed passion and idealism.”
“I am happy to welcome over 100 children who are making Aliyah today through Nefesh B’Nefesh and joining us here in Israel,” said Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver. “Aliyah from North America is extremely important and makes us stronger as a nation.”
The Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky said: “The Jewish Agency, which brings tens of thousands of Olim from across the globe sees Nefesh B’Nefesh as a dedicated partner in this important work. The children and their parents who are arriving on this Olim flight from North America represent the future of Israel and every one of them strengthens Israeli society.”
Hundreds of families and friends as well as Israeli dignitaries gathered at Ben Gurion Airport to welcome the country’s newest citizens at the arrival ceremony. Those present included: Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver; Member of the House Committee and the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs MK Dov Lipman; Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky; World Chairman of KKL-JNF, Effie Stenzler; Vice President Global Sales of El Al, Offer Gat; Vice Chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh Erez Halfon and Co-Founders of Nefesh B’Nefesh Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart.
Photo: Peter Halmagyi