south african olim sharansky 248.
(photo credit: BRIAN HENDLER)
The Jewish Agency's Aliyah and Absorption Department held a welcome ceremony at the Western Wall on Sunday for 120 olim who had just arrived from South Africa.
The new Israelis arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport at 9 a.m. and were taken first to a hotel in the capital and then to the Old City, where they received their Israeli identification cards at the ceremony.
Natan Sharansky, the Jewish Agency's new chairman, told them of his appreciation and joy at seeing so many Jews returning home, and referred to the biblical prophecy that the Jewish nation will return to the Land of Israel. "I see one person, a family... 200 making aliya - that's the incoming of exiles," he said.
Jewish Agency spokesman Michael Jankelowitz pointed out that this was "Natan Sharansky's first public appearance to meet a group of olim from the West." He met a group of Ethiopian olim last week, and "on Tuesday morning he will be the guest of honor as 240 olim arrive in Israel from Canada and the United States of America," Jankelowitz said.
The Jewish Agency anticipates a record 3,000 olim from around the globe this month, he added.
The agency's outgoing South Africa emissary Ofer Dahan, whom Jankelowitz described as the "architect" of this immigration, said, "This is the fourth group aliya flight from South Africa. It is the huge increase in aliya which allows us to do that."
There has been an large increase in the number of South Africans making aliya, and this summer the Jewish Agency expects a 15 percent boost in arrivals over previous summers.
Two immigrants discussed why they have decided to move to Israel. Joel Klotnick, a long-time Zionist activist from Johannesburg, addressed the other olim and quoted erusalem Post editor-in-chief David Horovitz, saying, "Only in Israel do we Jews get to choose our own fate, rather than rely on the tolerance of others."
Another, Gavin Marcus, also from Johannesburg, explained that "outside of Israel, Jewish family life often falls apart. I want to raise my family [in Israel] - only here can we stay together."
The ceremony is part of Dahan's plan to create a more stress-free way of making aliya by "bringing Israel to olim, rather than olim to Israel."
He organized a pre-flight check-in in a Johannesburg community center so the olim would not have to bring their heavy baggage to the airport, and paired them up with adoptive Israeli families who will help them in the first month after their aliya.