Anybody needing a dose of good, old-fashioned Zionism should be required to
attend a Nefesh B’Nefesh welcoming ceremony for new immigrants, like the one
held on Tuesday morning at Ben- Gurion Airport.
Around 350 olim from
North America, including 127 motivated youngsters traveling on their own and
about to enlist in the IDF, arrived at the airport’s old Terminal 1 on an El Al
flight from New York to a boisterous reception.
Balloons, flags, singing,
dancing, hugging and tears all intermingled as hundreds of families and friends
greeted these latest Israelis with warmth, love and appreciation.
scene has repeated itself dozens of times over the last decade, as Nefesh
B’Nefesh – the organization co-founded by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart
which is celebrating its 10th anniversary – has brought over 32,000 North
American olim to Israel.
Even more impressive, thanks to extensive
post-aliya support provided by the relevant bodies involved – including
partners, the Jewish Agency, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, Keren Kayemet
Le’Israel-Jewish National Fund, Tzofim, Garin Tzabar and Friends of Israel
Defense Forces – 97 percent of the olim have remained in Israel.
the many obstacles and challenges that await the olim – whether it’s adjusting
to a new language and culture or finding themselves in the middle of a potential
clash between Israel and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear aspirations – they haven’t
been dissuaded in their goal of making Israel their home.
“It’s not even
in the realm of reasons to move to Israel or not. Iran? Give me a break,” new
olah Jamie Geller, author and host of online cooking show Joy of Kosher, told
The Jerusalem Post
’s Gil Shefler on the El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv
on Monday night. That attitude of taking the bad with the good, the given with
the uncertain, will certainly be a useful tool for the new immigrants in
acclimating to their new environment.
However, the challenges awaiting
the immigrants once the initial euphoric glow wears off wasn’t on their minds or
on those of the dignitaries welcoming them at the airport ceremony.
general sentiments of the speeches by everyone from Fass, Gelbart, Absorption
Minister Sofa Landver, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and world chairman
of KKL-JNF Effie Stenzler was one of appreciation and thanks to the new
immigrants for having the faith in Israel to leave behind their comfortable
lives in North America and join us in the grand, ongoing endeavor of rebuilding
the Jewish homeland.
“Each of the 350 people that made aliya today have
decided to link their personal future with the future of the Jewish state and
the Jewish people,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the
He was speaking to all of the immigrants, mostly consisting of
observant families who are settling in all parts of the country. But he was
giving special attention to the new IDF soldiers-to-be, who arrived as part of
the Garin Tzabar program for lone soldiers, saying that “the new IDF soldiers
have also decided to defend the Jewish future – a privilege that wasn’t accorded
to previous generations of Jews.”
Many of these idealistic youth are the
children of Israelis, who for various reasons decided to make their homes in
North America. Their return, the “national effort of kibbutz galuyot – the
in-gathering of the exiles,” as Sharansky described it, carries with it just as
much responsibility for the host country as it does the new
These young immigrants, who are ready to contribute to the
country’s safety by devoting two or three years of their lives to serving in the
army, are not expecting much in return. But what they do deserve is to discover
an Israel as idealistic as they are – a moral country with democratic principles
that strives for equality, protects human rights and cherishes fundamental
freedoms, including those of speech and worship.
Nefesh B’Nefesh has done
its part to make their aliya easy, the new immigrants have done their part by
actually getting on the plane and coming here. Now it’s up to not only our
elected officials, but all of us as well, to live up to their
May they not be disappointed!