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New immigrants from Ukraine make aliya, December 30, 2014.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Netanyahu: Diaspora Jews want to be part of Israel’s success story
New national holiday pays tribute to all of Israel’s olim
Immigrants used to move to Israel because it was bad for them in their countries, now they come because it is good here, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday night at a festive event in Jerusalem marking the first time Israel celebrated its new national holiday, Aliya Day.

Addressing some 3,500 people at Jerusalem’s International Convention center, Netanyahu said that for the first time since the destruction of the Second Temple, Israel has the largest Jewish population in the world. “In the past, millions of Jews felt that they were in danger,” he said, whereas today Diaspora Jewry is drawn to Israel for its strength and success in hi-tech, innovation, science, economics, and the military.

“I tell them, ‘Come to Israel, because it’s your home and also so you can improve your situation.’ They want to be part of the success story,” Netanyahu commented.

The prime minister was joined by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, and Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky, each of whom addressed the audience between artistic performances that celebrated immigration from countries around the world.

“Today all the world is following two dramatic events,” Liberman said, “the US elections and Aliya Day. I am happy you chose to be in the right place.”

“Our forefather Abraham was the first oleh [immigrant],” Liberman continued. “Aliya started a long time before the idea of Zionism and a long time before the establishment of the State of Israel.”

Sharansky said, “We at The Jewish Agency celebrate Aliya Day not only today, but each and every day. Our employees and emissaries posted across the world mark this holiday throughout the year as they organize aliya fairs, hold informational seminars, and prepare immigrants for their journey home. Jewish Agency emissaries drive aliya by both strengthening Jewish identity and deepening ties between Diaspora Jews and the State of Israel every single day.”

The Knesset also paid tribute to immigrants in a special meeting of the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee.

Hundreds of immigrants and activists were in attendance, along with MKs and senior officials from the Immigration and Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency.

Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee chairman Avraham Neguise (Likud) called new immigrants “the State of Israel’s oxygen.”

“These are Jews who were pushed by the Zionist and biblical vision of the return to their homeland. They, who despite all the difficulties in their countries of origin and in absorption, were not deterred and stuck to realizing that vision each day in their actions and thoughts,” Neguise, who arrived from Ethiopia in 1987, said.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a refusenik who made aliya in 1987 after spending three years in a Soviet prison, said that without immigrants there would be no State of Israel.

“We must build a strong, just society that creates hope for the future and welcomes guests. More and more immigrants will come with more opportunities,” he said.

Immigration Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said that with each immigrant’s arrival in Israel the Zionist dream comes true. She said she salutes each one who arrives and deals with difficulties and language barriers.

Landver moved from the Former Soviet Union in 1979.

MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Union), one of the sponsors of the Aliya Day bill, said people should not take aliya for granted, which is why he proposed that there be a day in its honor.

“Aliya has happened because of massive effort and dedication, through loss of life and endless secret action behind the scenes,” he stated. “We must make things easier for olim every day, whether it’s their difficulties with the language, making a living or image problems.”

Sharansky pledged not to give up on a single Jew or a single immigrant. “I say to all Jews, without distinction, that I want them and their prayers and their rabbis here in Israel,” he said. There is room for all of us here, and we must tell all Jews who support us abroad and all who wish to immigrate to Israel that they are wanted and accepted among us.”
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