A salute to NBN

NBN says it has now flown 60,000 immigrants to Israel since it was founded as an NGO in 2001 by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart. Altogether, 2,282 immigrants are due to come from North America.

August 29, 2019 12:56
3 minute read.
A salute to NBN

Future lone soldiers on the NBN flight take a selfie with Sara Netanyahu. (photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN)

Ben-Gurion Airport’s Terminal 1 was packed with well-wishers and warmth on the morning of August 15 to greet Nefesh B’Nefesh’s 60th chartered El Al flight from New York, this one bringing 242 olim (immigrants) from the US and Canada.

NBN says it has now flown 60,000 immigrants to Israel since it was founded as an NGO in 2001 by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart. Altogether, 2,282 immigrants are due to come from the US and Canada this summer alone.

“As we celebrate our 60,000th immigrant today, we reflect upon how Nefesh B’Nefesh as an institution has been privileged not only to help tens of thousands of Jews fulfill their aliyah dreams, but has also contributed to building and developing the State of Israel through these olim,” Fass said.

Of course, NBN does not do it all alone, but in coordination with the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, The Jewish Agency, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, and JNF-USA, and the latest flight was sponsored by Colorado-based philanthropist Heidi Rothberg.

Still, there is no doubt that the NGO has revolutionized aliyah over the past 18 years. Gone are the days when immigrants had to fend for themselves. NBN provides them with assistance in just about every facet of their future life in Israel, from housing and employment to being placed in good schools and even the IDF.

Indeed, among those on the flight were 41 “lone soldiers” set to join the army.

Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, made a point of welcoming them in her speech.

“All of Israel embraces you today,” she said. “We are all your family. Even if you are called ‘lone soldiers,’ you are not lonely – we are always with you.” And, she urged them, “Remember, every opportunity you have, call your father and mother!”

Coming a month before the September 17 election, the speakers at the welcoming ceremony – who included Aliyah and Integration Minister Yoav Galant (Likud) and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, a former head of the Labor Party – were careful not to talk politics, even though most adults on the flight will be eligible to vote in Israel for the first time.

“I would like to extend a mazal tov to the olim who have come here from North America to build their homes and futures here,” Herzog said.

Galant, a former IDF general, made a point of welcoming the lone soldiers and the more than 100 doctors making aliyah from North America this year. He noted that his mother, a Holocaust survivor, had arrived on the SS Exodus as a child in 1947.

“When I see you, all of you, I know you are coming to a much stronger, secure state, the State of Israel,” Galant said.

The newcomers included 31 families with 103 children under the age of 17 and 21 medical professionals.

Yoaz Hendel, a father of four who is running for Blue and White, carried his young son into the airport terminal. “I brought my kids to see that we are still here, with the Zionist dream to bring Jews from all over the world to Israel,” Hendel said. “Behind the political campaign, we all share the same values of aliyah and settling the land, and making sure that this miracle still exists.”

My message to the olim is: with antisemitism on the rise in America, enjoy the privilege of living in the modern State of Israel. A special salute to those joining the IDF, and a special plea to those above the age of 18: exercise your democratic right to vote!

Finally, in two words that have become NBN’s catchphrase: Welcome home!

Steve Linde

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