Yet another group of North American Jews has made Aliyah (immigration to Israel), with their plane touching down at Ben-Gurion Airport in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
The new olim (immigrants) numbered about 85, and were the last group of the summer sponsored by the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization.
Although the new Israelis arrived at 3:15 AM, scores of friends, family and Aliyah activists showed up at the airport to welcome them home to Israel. This was the fourth large group of North American olim to have arrived this summer. Over 1,500 North American Jews have made Aliyah with the help of grants from Nefesh B'Nefesh this summer alone the same number as were assisted by Nefesh B’Nefesh in the previous two years combined.
Three previous chartered flights full of olim, one in July and two in August, were treated to a festive ceremony attended by government officials, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Today's olim did not expect a grand reception, but were still greeted by well-wishers and pro-Aliyah activists with banners, drums and guitars.
A contingent from the grassroots Aliyah movement Kumah-Americans Return to Zion were on hand, holding banners and distributing bumper stickers reading "Aliyah Revolution." As the new olim came out into the arrivals hall, Kumah members blew shofars, symbolizing the fulfillment of the daily prayer, "Sound the great ram's horn for our freedom, and raise the banner to gather our exiles and speedily gather us together from the four corners of the Earth to our Land."
Naomi and Aaron Gassman were two of the first olim to pass through customs and enter the hall. They were greeted by a crowd singing the popular tune, "The children have returned to their borders." The couple was married one month ago in Los Angeles, and is moving to the Gush Etzion town of Efrat, just south of Jerusalem. "Is this not the best one month anniversary ever?" said Aaron, beaming after dancing with well-wishers.
Ellie Silverberg and Caty Hill, students studying in a Jerusalem seminary, said they had heard that another group of North American immigrants was arriving and "knew we had to come to the airport to greet them... We heard that there would not be a big organized reception, so we wanted to make sure there were people there to properly welcome them home," said Silverberg, who lives in Teaneck, New Jersey but hopes to make Aliyah herself in the near future.
Beth Furst, a new immigrant from Denver, Colorado, told IsraelNN.com's Ezra HaLevi that through her Aliyah, she knows she is finally fulfilling the will of her distant relative Ber Borochov, a famous Zionist of the turn of the previous century. Borochov was an ardent advocate of settling pre-state Israel, and led the faction within the Socialist Zionist party, Poalei Zion, that refused to accept Uganda as a substitute for the Land of Israel. "Ever since I visited here 20 years ago, I've yearned to come back," said Furst. "Why it took so long, I can't say."