The state of Israel has been built on the pioneering spirit. Images of young men and women draining swamps and plowing fields have been etched into the psyche of Israeli society, reminding them that there is always much work to be done. For sixty years, the desire to build Israel from the ground up has propelled the development of the state, and today that spirit continues. In January, Nefesh B'Nefesh commenced the Go North program in cooperation with the Russell Berrie Foundation. The Go North program is an ambitious initiative offering enhanced services and financial benefits to pioneering North American and British Olim interested in moving to Israel's Northern communities. The program aims to bring over 1,000 Olim to Northern Israel over the next five years thereby serving as a catalyst for change and expansion of Jewish communities in the North. Michele Kaplan-Green, Nefesh B'Nefesh's Go North Project Manager is extremely excited about this new initiative. "The program embraces the ideals of Nefesh B'Nefesh - building the land and bringing talented, energetic Olim to contribute to the development of Israel." Since it was announced, more than 300 families have already expressed interest. The Go North program offers two tracks for potential Olim to choose. Track One, the Garin Track, will help groups of families move to pre-selected communities, such as Karmiel, Afula, Maalot, Misgav and Katzrin with their surrounding communities. These communities are already being prepared to be well-equipped for the arrival of these Go North Olim, with a designated local regional klita (absorption) coordinator seeking rental housing options, developing social and educational programming, as well as the municipal governments committed to providing a warm welcome to the new Olim. "Making Aliyah and moving to the North has always been a dream of ours, but we were always hesitant because of the particular challenges of this move" said Yitzhak Havlatka, who along with his wife Tikva and four children, hope to participate in the Garin group and move to Chispin. "The Go North program will make it easier for us to meet those challenges head on and provide the necessary support for us and our children." The second track, Direct Integration, offers a solid option for Olim seeking to integrate directly into an Israeli community. Although not part of a garin, Olim will still benefit from the wide range of Nefesh B'Nefesh assistance. "Our goal is to successfully integrate Olim into their new communities up North. To that extent we are committed to providing the most comprehensive services to the Olim in both the Garin and Direct Integration Tracks," remarked Kaplan-Green. Potential Olim are expressing interest in such communities as Nazareth Illit (Upper Nazareth), Hazorim, Acre, Hatzor Haglilit, and Nahariya. All applicants for Go North are required to undertake a pilot trip in order to thoroughly explore their options. In addition to visiting potential communities, Go North Olim will meet with Nefesh B'Nefesh staff and discuss their Aliyah plans on their pilot trip. Nefesh B'Nefesh strongly believes that it is critical to research all of the options available. They want to make sure the Olim are receiving the best services and proper advice. The pilot trip serves as an excellent opportunity to meet with the potential candidates and help personally guide them through these processes. Havlatka recounts that his pilot trip played a vital role in deciding what community is best for his family. "On my trip to the North, I met some wonderful people, who were very real and welcoming" observed Yitzhak who will be making Aliyah this summer from Miami. "I'm confident that the education my children will receive will be top rate. It gives me a great deal of pride to think of my children learning in Israeli classrooms and speaking Hebrew." Lila Pinksfeld from Houston, Texas, also just finished her pilot trip to various kibbutzim including Emek Hayarden "was impressed with the proximity to stores, the diversity of educational options, and the reasonable housing opportunities that existed in the communities we visited". In addition to housing and educational options, pilot trips are used to research prospective employment. While the North is known for its agriculture, there is still a great range of employment opportunities from education to hi-tech. For example, numerous companies involved in hardware, software, and biotech are on the frequent lookout for experienced technical writers with superb English skills. Furthermore, the North has developing companies and industries that welcome the expertise and experience of Olim. Pilot trips offer the Olim a chance to speak directly to potential employers and learn how they can apply their skills to a particular field. "I was thoroughly impressed with the companies I met with and at the same time felt that potential employers were interested in learning about the talents and skills I could bring to the table," observed another Pilot Tripper. Go North offers a unique opportunity for many Olim to live their dream. "For us," said Lila Pinksfeld, "the initiative has made settling in the North a viable option with the extensive support mechanism, in addition to the added financial assistance." As more Olim choose to embark upon this endeavor, the Go North program is forming a new image of the 'pioneer', but the desire to succeed and make a difference in their Homeland remains the same. For more information: North America - 1-866-4-ALIYAH UK - 0800-075-7200 Email - gonorth@nbn.org.il Web page - www.gonorth.org.il

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