Pnina Tamano-Shata
Pnina Tamano-ShataTomer Neuberg/Flash90

Without a doubt, this past year, 5782, was challenging, yet exceptionally beautiful and meaningful.

This year, thousands of Olim decided to come home to the Land of Israel, as the Ingathering of the Exiles continues, as hoped for in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The number of Olim that immigrated reached numbers that have not been seen in two decades.

60,000 Olim arrived between last Rosh Hashanah and this one, choosing Israel as their new home. 60,000 new Olim settled in the Land of Israel, integrating into the workforce, with thousands of children filling seats in schools. 60,000 excited Olim, ready to bring their diverse backgrounds and contribute to our flourishing Jewish and Zionist society.

Yes, it’s true that not all Olim came from the best circumstances, especially our dear Olim from Ukraine. With the outbreak of the war, the State of Israel instantaneously jumped into action. We initiated Operation Homecoming, bringing close to 40,000 Olim from the region to Israel, ensuring their safety and protecting Jews around the world, as is our duty.

As Minister of Aliyah and Integration, I lead the initiative in the Cabinet to bring our Ukranian brothers and sisters home. Action was taken immediately, with the Jewish Agency renting hotels in Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova, providing a warm bed to thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish refugees, allowing them to rest their heads after days of plight.

From there, they received help to immigrate to Israel, with planes landing one after another at Ben Gurion Airport and Terminal 1. Every day, the Ministry filled up with thousands of people coming home. Although the circumstances that precipitated their Aliyah were tragic and unfortunate, it’s possible to find a silver lining.

Though many came as refugees, upon arrival, they were no longer refugees. How can a Jew be a refugee in the Land of Israel? It’s impossible. Even a Jew who has never stepped foot in Israel, Israel is their home.

These Olim immediately received a warm hug and were placed in hotels, rented for them by the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration. Outside of these hotels gathered children, youth groups, Chayalim, and plenty of wonderful Israeli citizens, with the goal of welcoming and strengthening the newest Israelis. Jews from around the world have sent generous donations to help Israel resettle those who have been forced to flee to Israel. Operation Homecoming was and is a resounding success, while also a beautiful showing of Jewish unity.

With dozens of emotional moments, I have many memories etched in my mind forever. One I’ll never forget happened on the day before Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, when a medical plane landed with 20 Holocaust survivors on it, touching down in Israel after their houses were bombed by the Russians. Yet again, they were forced to flee from the gates of war. However, this time, they said, was different. “In World War II, there was nowhere to run. Today, we have the state of Israel.” It was a tremendous moment of pride and motivation to keep strengthening our country and connecting with Jewish communities around the world.

This year, 5782, was exceptionally challenging. Yet, together, as Am Yisrael, we overcame unprecedented obstacles, and we will continue to do so. We’ll work hard to turn the moments of unity into years of Ahavat Chinam. We’ll work hard to solidify our relations with diaspora communities. And most importantly, we’ll work hard to give every Jew the chance to come home to our beautiful and diverse country: the State of Israel.

Shana Tova!