ON THE FLIGHT FROM JFK TO ISRAEL – Back in 2010, when Ari and Ilana Erdfarb from
Bergenfield, New Jersey, received a phone call from a Jewish organization they
had been donating to informing them that they won two plane tickets to Israel,
they decided to bring their five children along in order to “pass on to them the
love of Israel” and spend Hanukka there.
Little did they know that three
years later, they would be flying to Israel with their kids once again, this
time on a chartered Nefesh B’Nefesh aliya flight along with 231 other excited
olim, and landing at Ben-Gurion Airport to the sound of thunderous applause of
hundreds of strangers waving Israeli flags, singing in Hebrew and holding up
home-made glittery “Welcome Home” signs.
“During that Hanukka trip we
looked at each other and realized this is really the place that we should be,”
Ilana told The Jerusalem Post just a week before the flight, which took off from
JFK airport in New York on Monday.
“It wasn’t even on our radar at that
point but being there for the holiday was very special,” Ari continued. “There,
your holidays are the state holidays, you walk around in Jerusalem and on the
telephone pole there is a hanukkia instead of a Christmas tree. It’s a very
different thing to experience it.”
It is this feeling of “the whole
country doing what you are doing,” as Ilana described it, which pushed the
Erdfarbs to start the aliya process last year.
“We thought: ‘we could do
this’,” explained Ari, who works as an attorney and will be able to keep his job
and work remotely from Israel.
“Our kids are just so unbelievably happy
here, running around, feeling at home.”
Ilana was born and raised in
Bergenfield and married Ari after they met at a summer camp where she was a
counselor and he was a lifeguard.
“It’s important to say that we love it
in Bergenfield, and if Bergenfield was in Israel we would want to stay there
forever,” she stressed.
“Until we decided that it was the right thing for
our family to make aliya, we really did believe that we would be in Bergenfield
forever. We are very comfortable here, we are very involved in the school and
the shul and we love it, but we believe Hashem gave us a gift.”
saw Nefesh B’Nefesh’s first charter aliya flight this summer and the 49th since
the organization was founded in 2002. Aboard were some 41 families, 54 singles,
and a record number of 106 children, including two sets of twins aged seven and
nine. The youngest passenger on the plane was only two months old, and the
oldest, 78 years of age.
Thirteen future IDF soldiers were also among the
Moving to the country’s periphery are 41 of the immigrants, a
large number of which will be absorbed into Negev and Galilee communities with
the help of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund.
off, passengers attended a departure ceremony at JFK airport which took place in
the presence of representatives of JNF-US, the Jewish Agency, El Al, Keren
Kayemeth LeIsrael, and Nefesh B’Nefesh, as well as Gil Lainer, consul for public
affairs at the Consulate-General of Israel, and the guest of honor, former IDF
captive Gilad Schalit, who flew to Israel aboard the flight.
that thousands of people chose to leave their home and start a new life in
Israel is not something I take for granted,” said Schalit, shaking many hands
and posing for pictures with enthusiastic passengers minutes before the flight
departed from New York.
“I wish them success in their integration and
this new beginning,” he added.
Greeting the new immigrants, co-founder of
Nefesh B’Nefesh Rabbi Yehoshua Fass said: “I look at this crowd and I see
families who started their application process in 2007, 2008 and finally this
day is here for you.
“The excitement and nerves are palpable and you see
the diversity of all the olim, people of every stripe every color, every
location, unified with a similar dream to build a future in Israel,” he said.
“It’s a miracle, I can’t imagine our grandparents seeing this
Although the Erdfarbs told the Post they are confident that
making aliyah is the “right thing for [their] family”, some concerns remain,
especially regarding the integration of their children in the
“Of course we are worried about our children because that’s the
nature of parents,” Ilana told the Post. “Our youngest kids are young so they
will adapt easily, it’s our oldest kids that we’re a bit nervous
Ilana explained that she and Ari speak with their children about
the move and the upcoming challenges very often in the hope that it will help
them adjust to the changes a little more smoothly.
“There will definitely
be tricky transitions,” Ilana said.
“My daughter who’s starting the 4th
grade does very well academically, so the last time that she came home and had
gotten a 100 on a test, I saved it and I’m planning on hanging it in her room so
that she remembers that she is able to thrive academically.”
Erdfarbs’ explained that their eldest daughter, who is nine years old and has
been expressing concerns about leaving her home in New Jersey, is “a bit nervous
socially, about making friends.”
“If you ask her how she feels about it
she’ll tell you she doesn’t know,” Ari pointed out.
“But in her heart she
knows it will be amazing, although challenging, and we are there to push her
through it. We know in our heart of hearts this is what’s best for them,” he
This summer, a total of 2,500 olim like the Erdfarbs will be
departing for Israel on Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah flights, in full cooperation with
the Jewish Agency, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and Keren Kayemeth
The second flight is scheduled for August 12. Since its
beginnings, Nefesh B’Nefesh has brought some 35,000 immigrants to Israel, whose
financial contribution to Israel exceeds $420 million over the past decade.