Agency celebrates birthday with arrival of UK olim

"British Jewry played a significant role in the founding of the State of Israel," says spokesman.

french aliya 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy of AMI [file])
french aliya 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy of AMI [file])
The Jewish Agency celebrated its 80th birthday by bringing 107 British Jews "back home" late Tuesday night. "It's no coincidence that we are bringing British olim on this day; British Jewry played a significant role in the founding of the State of Israel and as such, we felt it important to honor today's olim," agency spokesman Michael Jankelowitz told The Jerusalem Post. "Today marks 80 years since the 16th Zionist Congress which took place in Zurich. The British presented the proposal to the World Zionist Organization for a Jewish Agency in what was then known as the British Mandate of Palestine. On August 11, 1929, the plan was accepted and the Jewish Agency came into existence," he said. "The agency in its infancy was very much connected to British politics - the first president of the Jewish Agency was Dr. Chaim Weizmann, a British Jew and scientist," Jankelowitz added. He was keen to highlight the idealism and determination of the olim to make the move to Israel. "These are Jews who are coming of their own free will and for idealistic reasons, a place where they can feel Jewish in a Jewish-majority culture, in a Jewish nation state. People are coming of their own free choice, not running away from anything." Andrew Balcombe, chairman of the British Zionist Federation, told the Post, "I want to welcome them home. I now run the British Zionist Federation from Israel and as my entire family [has now] made aliya, it is the first time in 15 years my whole family have been together in one country - I hope that these olim too will soon find themselves at home here in Israel." Balcombe quoted last week's Torah reading, Eikev, "For the land from which you come and go into to inherit is not the land of Egypt from where you came," before praising the olim for having "chosen identity, idealism and involvement in building Israel - people like these are key in the extraordinary experiment of success in Israel." Balcombe, Jewish Agency Treasurer Hagai Meirom and Western Wall Chief Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, are to welcome the new Israelis on Wednesday in a ceremony at the Western Wall plaza, where they will be presented with their Israeli identity cards.