Aliyah Israel news photo: (file)
Though international politics and intrigue have turned up the heat on another Israeli summer, a breath of fresh air breezed into the country on the tail of an El Al plane on Wednesday, as 232 North American Jews made aliyah.

Among the new citizens are a five-month-old, a 95-year old, 96 children, 27 new Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and 4 dogs hailing from 21 states.

After enjoying speeches by officials of aliyah organization Nefesh b'Nefesh and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, returnees to the Jewish homeland enjoyed some refreshments and shared their enthusiasm with Israel National Radio's Yishai Fleisher.

"The first time you sing Hatikva not as a visitor or going to a school in America, but finally as my national anthem, in my country – it's amazing," enthused Yossi Gove, a plumber from Passaic, New Jersey who used to be known as "Joe."  Surrounded by his family, he blessed his children to grow, succeed and multiply.  "Where can you do that more than here?" he asked.

"It's good to be home.  It's so good to be home," gushed Elana Frankel, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland.   "It's amazing, I can't believe I'm finally doing it. I've wanted to make aliyah since I was 15," she told Fleisher.  

Years ago, immediately after spending a year in one of Israel's Torah seminaries for young women, Elana was hooked.  But her parents told her she could not make Israel home until she graduated from college.  So in order to maintain her commitment to Aliyah and to living a religious life, Elana got involved with Hillel, trying to run pro-aliyah events for other students whenever she could.

"My phone message for the past 7 years says 'Hi, you've reached Elana Frankel, leave a message at the beep, call me back, make aliyah.'  Yeah, I've changed my voice mail, but people still associate me with aliyah," she said.

Two decades her senior, Varda "Wendy" Derovan made the decision to pack her bags when she was 14 years old – and finally touched down in the Holy Land 30 years later in fulfillment of her dream.

Yet her vision of life in Israel comes just as much from inspiration as from intellectual honesty.  "We want to be part of the whole [conversation] of what it is to have a Jewish country, and it's really hard to do that in America," reasoned Varda.  She also had words of rebuke for religious Jews who pray for the fulfillment of the prophecy of the ingathering of the exiles, but do not take part.   "After 120 years, when you go before Hashem and you have to answer 'why didn't I go' -  I don't know what we're going to say… very few people have a good answer," she said.

Varda also encouraged fellow Jews to see Aliyah as a way to affect the future of Israel, saying she believes an influx of 100,000 American Jews would drastically change Israel's political situation.  "I think it's extremely important now for people to take action.  There is no more time to waste," urged Varda.  "We are really on the line.  So we are voting with our feet."

Rabbi Elan Adler has come home as well, but he credits his wife.  Rabbanit Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler lived Aliyah for 9 years as she guided her family toward the ultimate goal.  During that time, she took leadership of the highly successful Baltimore, Maryland aliyah club, the Baltimore Chug Aliyah, and began writing for her personal blog Bat Aliyah, all the while helping local families take the leap toward life in Israel.  "I channeled my own frustrated aliyah energy… until it was the right time for us," she said.

While groups of olim [immigrants to Israel] will be coming throughout the summer, the next full chartered plane of Nefesh b'Nefesh immigrants will arrive on August 3rd.

photo credit: Yishai Fleisher

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