Despite tensions surrounding the war in Gaza, 338 new Olim (immigrants) from the United States and Canada arrived in Israel Tuesday on an Aliyah charter flight to Israel. Of them, 108 will be enlisting in the IDF.
The special Nefesh B’Nefesh flight was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, The Jewish Agency for Israel, JNF - USA and Tzofim Garin Tzabar.
The large group of immigrants included 37 families with 107 children. The passenger list was also comprised of 65 immigrants moving to Israel’s periphery as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh and Keren Kayemeth L’Israel Go North and Go South programs. Altogether, the immigrants will be settling in every part of Israel, from Ma’alot in the North to Eilat in the South.
The immigrants hail from 27 states and three Canadian provinces, from Arizona to Quebec, and range in age from a six-week-old baby to a 93-year-old great-grandparent in a family of four generations making Aliyah together.
As the new immigrants made their first steps on Israeli soil upon arrival, KKL-JNF presented each of them with a personalized certificate announcing that KKL-JNF will plant a “first tree in the homeland of Israel” in their honor, encouraging the development of the Southern communities.
“The fighting spirit which has enabled the Jewish people to survive for thousands of years is not only found among IDF soldiers, but also among the immigrants who chose to come to Israel alone, without their families, at this particular period of time, and join the elite combatant units of the Israel Defense Forces," KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler said.
“As a central partner in this important project, KKL-JNF is proud of the new immigrants and assures them with its support and promise to accompany them throughout their absorption in the Negev and Galilee, in favor of strengthening the Israeli society," noted Stenzler.
“It is heartwarming to see young men and women, who despite these challenging times, are leaving their comfortable lives in the Diaspora to make Aliyah and serve and defend the State of Israel," Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, Sofa Landver added.
“The Olim who are continuing to move to Israel are strengthening us all, especially these determined young people who will be joining the IDF in combative and significant roles. You are the symbol of Zionism and the future of the State of Israel.”
Speaking about the timing of the flight, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Yehoshua Fass remarked “I find it profoundly inspiring that we have a 747 jumbo jet filled to capacity with people from the North American Jewish community making Aliyah, especially at such a challenging time. To see that Jews everywhere, young and old, religious and secular, are determined to fulfill the dream of helping to build the Jewish State is truly amazing.”
Chair of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, also addressed the new wave of Aliyah.
“That so many Jews from the West are joining us of their own free will is the best answer to those who still try to destroy us," Sharansky said. "This flight is yet another step in the ingathering of the exiles, and we look forward to welcoming these new Israelis home.”
Several MKs and dignitaries attended the welcoming ceremony and personally met some of the immigrants.
Among them were President of Israel, Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin; Minister of Interior, Gidon Saar; Director-General of the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration Absorption, Mr. Oded Feuer; Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky; Chairman of the Board of Directors of KKL-JNF, Effie Stenzler; CEO, Jewish National Fund, Russell Robinson; Chairman of the Israel Scouts Tzofim, Mr. Eli Ben-Yosef and Co-Founders of Nefesh B'Nefesh, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass & Tony Gelbart.