Largest One-Day North American Aliyah in Israel´s History

The largest number of North American Jews ever to move to Israel in one day arrived in the Holy Land Wednesday morning and were greeted with fanfare by the country’s leaders.

Ezra HaLevi , | updated: 5:36 PM

More than 500 Jews from the US and Canada boarded two planes, in New York and Toronto Tuesday, embarking on Aliya, the Hebrew word literally meaning ascent, which refers to the act of immigrating to Israel.

The two flights, the first of seven scheduled to arrive this summer, were organized by Nefesh b’Nefesh, the organization that began in 2002 by assisting one planeload of new immigrants overcome the obstacles of immigration and plans to help 3,200 make the move this year alone.

Hundreds of former olim (immigrants) gathered in a large hanger at Ben-Gurion International Airport to greet the new olim. Among them were many family members of the new arrivals who joyously anticipated reuniting with their loved ones.

“This is a family reunion of sorts. I am here, my brother is here and now my sister is arriving,” said Yishai Ben Mordechai, who waited on the tarmac for his sister Rebecca Perlin-Fadinof. “My mother is next. She is the last one.”

Naftali and Chana Bernin stepped off the plane holding their two cats, Fred and Skyler. The couple, who met while studying at the WUJS Institute in the Negev and got married while back in America, are moving directly to the Gush Etzion town of Alon Shvut. The natives of Los Angeles and Teaneck, New Jersey respectively have never been to the town, but are excited about their new homes. Their message for those still back in the Old Country: “Come home, we need you here!”

Speeches were delivered by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres. All three steered clear of any talk of the Disengagement Plan as those present were given shirts to put on over orange anti-expulsion garments and asked by Nefesh b’Nefesh to refrain from heckling the officials.

“The sight of all these Jews from all walks of life coming together in our land gives us hope,” said Nefesh b’Nefesh co-founder Rabbi Yehoshua Fass. “We live in a world full of terror and all sorts of difficulties, but we fight them with life – with life in our homeland."

Click here for photographer Natan Gesher's pictures of the new olim arriving in Israel.

Tune in to Israel National Radio Thursday for the on-demand broadcast of the historic event.