Reporter's Notebook: Flying high with 231 North American olim

Joining Nefesh B’Nefesh's first aliya flight of the summer, the energy was "palpable".

Olim arrive in Israel with Nefesh B'Nefesh 370  (photo credit: Courtesy Nefesh B'Nefesh)
Olim arrive in Israel with Nefesh B'Nefesh 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Nefesh B'Nefesh)
When Nefesh B’Nefesh invited me to join its first aliya flight of the summer, I was immediately interested.
It wasn’t just because it meant spending a few days in New York, but mostly because since I moved back to Israel after 18 years of living abroad, I’ve watched videos of NBN’s welcome ceremonies on YouTube several times and wondering what it would be like to be on one of those charter flights.
I thought I should tell you a little bit about covering the aliya of 231 North Americans on Tuesday, because I think it will interest you. To be honest, maybe also because I don’t feel like letting this story go just yet.
I interviewed the Erdfarb family in New York a few days before the flight. I knew that for my article, I would want to lead with a personal touch. We had an hour-long chat during which we talked about their motivations for making aliya and the whole packing and moving process.
Two things stood out to me: their strong love of Israel and their inexhaustible optimism about what life there would be like, which always seemed to overthrow any concerns or apprehensions they may have had about leaving their home in Bergenfield, New Jersey.
I found that same optimism in most of the olim I got a chance to talk to, both at JFK airport and later on the plane. Even those planning on joining combat units in the IDF didn’t seem worried at all.
I have to admit that hearing them talk about this idealistic picture of the Jewish state, I was skeptical and thought to myself: “They really have no idea of what awaits them.”
Perhaps we Israelis are so used to complaining about this country and wishing we were somewhere else, that we can’t really process the fact that someone would leave the United States of America for a dot on the map.
Being on the plane was a once in a lifetime experience.
I think it may have been the first time that I was on an aircraft where no one was grumpy or argued with a flight attendant over a defective screen or a glass of water that hadn’t arrived on time.
The 106 children onboard got to do some drawing and painting organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh in the back of the airplane.
Everyone was happy. They clapped each time the pilot made an announcement, even if he was simply notifying them of the sale of duty free items, and of course, as the plane’s wheels hit the runway at Ben-Gurion Airport.
For me as a reporter, being on the plane was a special moment. Seating among other journalists talking about the news; transcribing my interview with the Erdfarbs on my laptop; and walking around chatting with the olim, I had a feeling that I usually get when I write long features: Stories like these, the ones where you get to tell the personal narratives of people who otherwise would be voiceless, are why I love journalism.
I also believe readers enjoy those the most.
Before the flight, NBN had promised us that “the energy is palpable.” I couldn’t agree more.