Sixty-four immigrants from North America arrived on Tuesday and expressed determination in the face the rocket attacks that welcomed them to the Jewish state.
According to several of them who spoke with The Jerusalem Post as well as to representatives of Nefesh B’Nefesh, the nongovernmental organization that brought them here, the newcomers are facing the rapidly escalating conflict with equanimity.
While some have expressed fear in the face of rocket warning sirens, the crump of exploding projectiles and the necessity of making their way to bomb shelters on their first day in the country, there was a determination to stick it out.
One immigrant from Tuesday’s flight, now living in Beit Shemesh, asked on Facebook for advice in dealing with the missile alerts.
“Hey just made aliya today! How long do we stay in the sealed room after siren,” Esther Hornstein, a young woman from Brooklyn, asked online.
The most recent escalation in the conflict with Hamas occurred “when I was in the air,” Chana Ganz, a 25-year-old nurse also from Brooklyn, told the Post. “I didn’t realize I was landing in a war zone until I landed.”
She discovered dark humor as a coping mechanism, she said, adding that while she was scared of her first experience with the Code Red siren less than a day after arriving, she is “honored and privileged to be here with my people.”
It was confusing to hear her first Code Red siren on Tuesday evening, Ganz said.
“I wasn’t sure what it was because I had just landed. Now I know what it sounds like and where to find the closest shelter if, God forbid, the next one happens.”
Looking at the events of the past several weeks from afar “really just strengthened my resolve to want to be here,” she explained.
“There is no better way to say that I stand in Israel than to say it from within Israel with my freshly printed teudat zehut,” she said, using the Hebrew term for a national identification card.
It is important to show Israel’s enemies that wars will not prevent Jews from coming to their homeland, Ganz said.
Jack Tobol said that the conflict was just another aspect to living in Israel and that it did not deter him.
He said that he had not thought about canceling his participation in Tuesday’s aliya flight due to the war.
“Part of the sacrifice of living here is understanding that the surrounding areas are hostile and that we don’t have peace and its just something we have to live with,” he said. “It’s not something that is giving me anything to think about or regrets.”
Tobol, who is living with his Israeli wife Aidit’s parents in Holon with their three children, aged eight, seven and four, said that his family is dealing with the rockets with little fuss.
His wife, who lived here during the First Gulf War in 1991 when Iraqi missiles struck Tel Aviv, is coping well and he has allowed his children to harbor the impression that the missiles are fireworks being shot off in a late Fourth of July celebration, he said.
“We don’t want their first impression [of Israel] to be of fear,” he explained.
As for why he did not change his aliya plans, he said that the current war is “not going to be the first time that this is going to happen, unfortunately. You have to be strong about it and understand and accept. The day we came here to me was perfect timing.”
A number of families asked to come on Tuesday’s flight in order to come sooner and be here during the conflict, according to Eric Michaelson, the executive vice president of Nefesh B’Nefesh. No one dropped out of the flight, he said.
Given that Nefesh B’Nefesh arranged the interviews with Ganz and Tobol, it is hard to gauge quite how most of the new immigrants feel, but a recent Facebook post by the organization’s founder Rabbi Yehoshua Fass does indicate that many prospective immigrants are nervous.
“This morning I received an email from an individual who is scheduled to make aliya in the coming weeks,” he wrote on July 1. “ In response to the news, they voiced their concerns about safety and were actually having second thoughts about their aliya plans.”
In response, Fass wrote that “this is precisely the time to come home.
“We must show our brothers and sisters in Israel that we literally (not just figuratively) stand with them; and it is imperative that we declare to our enemies that nothing – nothing – will deter us from returning to our homeland and fulfilling the destiny and fate of the Jewish people.”
Both Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Immigration and Absorption Ministry have said that they will continue providing services during the conflict.
Ministry branches will continue operating according to normal opening hours and all immigrants will be briefed on emergency procedures upon their arrival.