nefesh olim 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
On a clear sunny day, 223 new North American immigrants landed outside Tel Aviv on Wednesday and were met by a celebration to mark their arrival in their new home.
Outside the former main arrival hall of Ben-Gurion Airport, hundreds of well-wishers, relatives and friends waved flags, danced the hora and sang songs as the immigrants walked through a gaggle of IDF soldiers to receive their initial documents before starting their new lives in Israel.
The celebration was attended by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver and MK Eli Aflalo (Kadima), as well as the co-founders of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart.
Addressing the celebration, Sharansky said, “From my own experience, I can tell you there is nothing like being the first generation in Israel.”
The Jewish Agency chief spoke of how “great” and “inspiring” it was for him to see the assembled immigrants, and said: “There is nothing like an oleh – a new immigrant to Israel – to go up, up, and up. You don’t have a word in English for this.”
Offering his blessings for the immigrants’ new lives as bona fide Israelis, he offered one suggestion:
“Now you are becoming Israelis – but don’t be in a hurry to drop everything you brought from America. There are some words which we don’t have in Hebrew. You know we don’t have in Hebrew the word ‘accountability’...
“We still need your passion for social activism, for small government, for clean politics… that’s your contribution. Every aliya has its contribution, and yours has a lot to give us.”
Wednesday’s batch of immigrants includes 27 young North Americans in their late teens and early 20s who have expressed an interest to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Nefesh B’Nefesh expects 493 immigrants to arrive in Israel from North America this summer with plans to serve in the IDF.
A number of the new arrivals immigrated through NBN’s Go North program, which was launched in 2009 with the goal of sending olim to live in the towns and cities of northern Israel.
Nefesh B’Nefesh, which runs North American and UK aliya in
collaboration with the Jewish Agency, is expecting between 4,500 and
5,000 North American and British Jews to make aliya in 2010, a
20-percent increase over 2009’s total of 4,200.
According to the organization’s figures, 98% of immigrants who came to
Israel with the program over the past eight years have remained in the
country. NBN credits its pre- and post-aliya assistance for the high
success rate, which it says helps many immigrants jump over the
bureaucratic, logistic and language difficulties that come with setting
up a life in Israel. The group also provides some economic assistance
to help the absorption process.
On Sunday, after the pageantry is long past and the immigrants’ jet lag
is fading into memory, NBN will hold an Israeli ID card distribution
event at its offices in Jerusalem. It will also include representatives
from cellphone companies and a number of other organizations providing
services the immigrants potentially need to set up shop in Israel.