olim shleter 298.
(photo credit: AP)
When Tzvi Klein and his family decided to make aliya to Mitzpe Netofa in the Lower Galilee, they didn't expect to be living in the middle of a war zone. But as the conflict in northern Israel continues, Klein and other immigrants who arrived on the second Jewish Agency/Nefesh B'Nefesh flight of the summer on Thursday are concerned, yet determined to settle the land.
"You make Aliya, you come to Israel. Israel comes with the bad and the good. It has neighbors that don't want us here, and sometimes things happen. But just because things are happening it is not a reason not to come, it's a reason to be careful," said Klein.
The 230 new olim came from Canada and over 30 states throughout the US. Upon arrival, the olim participated in a welcoming ceremony in which Likud leader Binyamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu gave the keynote address.
"Bibi spoke and he basically gave a typical, great shake-'em-all-up Bibi speech," said Charley Levine, a spokesman for Nefesh B'Nefesh. "He said that the olim are the answer to everything that Hizbullah is throwing at us, because they prove that the Israeli dream and Zionist vision can not be stopped."
Three families from Thursday's arrivals, including the Kleins, are scheduled to move to the North. A press release from Nefesh B'Nefesh revealed that some future olim who are planning to live in northern Israel have deferred their flights. Others will take up residence elsewhere in the country for the time being, and move to the north at a later date. Still, there are those who, despite the violence, will settle in the North as soon as possible.
The Kleins went to Mitzpe Netofa temporarily on Thursday to drop off their baggage and meet the community. However, the family will not move in until the situation calms down and they complete their immigration process.
Yair Koenig, another oleh on the flight, plans to settle at Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi in the North on August 10. Koenig came to Israel to participate in Garim Tzabar, a program which helps foreign-born citizens enter the Israeli army. According to Koenig, he didn't decide to live in the North; Garim Tzabar assigned him to that location. Nonetheless, Koenig feels passionate about the prospect of living there.
"I think that you have to be cautious and put your safety first, but having a presence there is really the important thing. If you start running away from places, it's just as bad as giving it up," said Koenig.
In an effort to help olim in the North, Nefesh B'Nefesh recently established a 24-hour hot line. According to Levine, the line provides support, counseling and advice and has received dozens of calls.
Nefesh B'Nefesh described the new immigrants as the "ultimate expression of solidarity between the state and the people of Israel." Many of the olim expressed a similar sentiment, saying that making aliya during these trying times is a testament to Israel's strength.
"The goal of the terrorists like Hamas and Hizbullah is to wipe Israel off the map and destroy the Jewish presence here. So the fact that an airplane full of Jews landed shows them look, it doesn't matter what you do, there will always be more of us... You aren't going to win despite everything you are doing, and that's one of the most important ways we can fight back," said Darren Schneider, an oleh moving to Neveh Daniel in Gush Etzion.
Nefesh B'Nefesh expects many more flights of olim to arrive this summer, including three on August 16, originating in New York, Canada and England. Levine said, "It will be a historic milestone day for aliya, and we hope it electrifies all of Israel when they see the 'ultimate solidarity mission.'"