Coming home

NBN, the organization founded in 2001 by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart, says that it has now flown 60,000 immigrants to Israel.

August 16, 2019 02:16
3 minute read.
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Jpost editorial logo . (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)

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

For anyone who attended, it was a shot of Zionism, one much needed in these days of cynicism and amid the rising trend of questioning Israel’s democratic values and worth.

NBN, the organization founded in 2001 by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart, says that it has now flown 60,000 immigrants to Israel, with 2,282 expected to arrive from the US and Canada this summer. Any way you look at it, it’s impressive.

Of course, NBN does not do it all alone, but rather in coordination with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel (KKL) and JNF-USA. The latest flight was sponsored by Colorado-based philanthropist Heidi Rothberg.

The new immigrants on Wednesday’s flight included 31 families with 103 children under the age of 17, three sets of twins, a 28-day-old baby, professionals uprooting their lives for the challenges of life in Israel, and retired people choosing the Jewish state as the location where they want to spend their golden years.

Among the newcomers on the flight were 41 “lone soldiers” set to join the army. Their arrival is a particular cause for celebration.

“All of Israel embraces you today. We are all your family,” said Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife. “Even if you are called ‘lone soldiers,’ you are not alone – we are always with you.”

The arrival of the new olim comes a month before the September 17 election, the first time these new adult Israelis are going to have a say in who leads their adopted country.

The speakers at the welcoming ceremony – who included Aliyah and Integration Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud) and Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog, a former head of the Labor Party – were careful not to talk politics.

“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. “Together with our partners and the Israeli government, we have brought over three million olim from dozens of countries around the world, and helped fulfil their Zionist dreams to live in their homeland.”

Gallant, a former IDF general, made a point of particularly 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,” Gallant said.

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 told The Jerusalem Post. “Behind the political campaign, we all share the same values of aliyah and settling the land, and making sure that this miracle still exists.”

Three mayors of cities absorbing the newcomers came to greet them: Beit Shemesh’s Aliza Bloch, Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut’s Haim Bibas and Bat Yam’s Tzvika Brot. Some 78 of the new olim are part of NBN’s Go Beyond program, which provides enhanced aliyah packages to those moving to the so-called periphery.

“We are currently launching a long-term flagship program, ‘Israel Relocation 2040 – KKL Building the Land of Tomorrow,’ aimed at bringing a million and a half new residents to the Negev and Galilee,” KKL World Chairman Danny Atar revealed.

The idealism and pioneering spirit of these new immigrants is inspiring and should be a model for the rest of the country. We have much to be proud about here, despite the long list of grievances Israelis harbor about society, the economy, the political and diplomatic situation, and even the weather.

Our message to the new olim is to enjoy the privilege of living in the modern State of Israel and to make your voices heard by voting and getting involved. Take the good with the bad and try to make the bad better.

Welcome home.

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