96 olim from South Africa celebrate at Kotel

In 1948, the South African Zionist Federation branch in Israel was created and functioned as the first olim association in the country.

kotel 88 (photo credit:)
kotel 88
(photo credit: )
Ninety-six new immigrants arrived overnight Monday in the first-ever organized aliya group from South Africa, and they celebrated at the Western Wall on Tuesday. "We are excited because we think there is an resurgence of interest in aliya from South Africa," David Bloom, vice chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, told The Jerusalem Post. "We believe people are not just leaving because the situation [in South Africa] is not good, but we believe that these people really see Israel as a country with a future," he said. Each person was passionate about their choice to move to Israel, whether it was for familial or Zionist reasons. The important thing was that they chose Israel as their home, said Eli Cohen, the Jewish Agency's director-general of aliya and immigrant absorption. "Israel can offer [every generation] an opportunity for a new life with more security and Jewish continuity," he said. Hannah Jacobson, 77, followed the love of her life to South Africa, but now, 58 years later, made the decision to move to Israel. She was born in Tiberias, but has now returned to be united with the rest of her family. "I don't think you make a decision about making aliya based on one factor," said Noga Maliniak, head of Jewish Agency's aliya department. "It's a combination of Zionism, feeling that this is the right time, or it's the reality of what is happening in South Africa right now." Anthony and Simone Perl decided to make aliya after years of visiting Israel and feeling sorry to leave the country each time. They will live in Zichron Ya'acov, where they have relatives. The whole family is looking forward to their future in Israel and believe it will be a great place for their seven-year-old twins, Terrence and Gabriel, to grow up. The South African Jewish community established one of the first Zionist organizations in 1896, a year before the First Zionist Conference in Basel. In 1948, 800 people came from South Africa to fight in the War of Independence. In the same year, the South African Zionist Federation branch in Israel was created and functioned as the first olim association in the country.