Some 330 North Americans making aliya arrived at Ben- Gurion Airport from New York on Tuesday morning on a flight chartered by Nefesh B’Nefesh.

Among the new arrivals were 125 young people making aliya in order to serve Israel in the IDF.

The “lone soldiers” are to be part of the Garin Tzabar program, which provides them with support and a number of benefits during their service.

The 63 men and 62 women aged 18 to 22 are to be drafted into the army soon, most of them seeking to serve in elite combat units.

Of the 2,800 lone soldiers now in Israel, about 900 hail from North America.

Forty-one families and 88 children were on the flight chartered by Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN). Ninety-two of the immigrants are moving to the periphery as part of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund’s Go South and Go North programs.

Upon arrival in Israel on Tuesday, some 1,600 people greeted the immigrants.

Among those on hand to welcome them at the airport were Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, head of the IDF Personnel Directorate Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai, Friends of the IDF national director Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak “Jerry” Gershon, KKL-JNF chairman Efi Stenzler and singer Rami Kleinstein.

An emotional Sa’ar told them, “What you did today – you took the biggest and most important decision you could ever take: to leave your familiar home in different places, to immigrate to Israel and build your home [in] the home of the Jewish people. And this is the core of Zionism. I look around me and I see hundreds of excited people who came to welcome you with open arms. And this is a clear message to you. You are not alone. We are with you. We will assist you and support you along the way.”

Stenzler added, “Our excitement this time is especially great. This is the first time that on one airplane, 125 soldiers are arriving to join the ranks of the IDF. The people of Israel salute you!” He added, “And don’t worry. Even if some of you are taking your first steps ever in Israel – after two months in the IDF you will feel that you were born here in Israel.”

At a departure ceremony at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of NBN, bid them farewell on their flight to their new homes.

“For 11 years, on 49 flights, I have welcomed thousands as they make their way to Israel,” Fass said. “And, it doesn’t get any less emotional. All of you, from diverse backgrounds, are coming together in a unified dream – to make Israel your home.”

This summer, a total of 2,500 olim are expected to arrive in Israel on NBN flights, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and KKLJNF.

The first flight of the summer arrived in Israel some three weeks ago. It carried 231 North American immigrants, including a record number of 106 children as well as 54 singles. The immigrants were joined on their flight by former IDF captive Gilad Schalit.

Correction: This article initially quoted NBN co-founder and executive director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass as saying that “For 11 years, on 29 flights, I have welcomed thousands as they make their way to Israel”. In actual fact Rabbi Fass said "49 flights", as he has made a concerted effort to accompany every one of the 50 charter Aliyah flights that the organization has arranged.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger