Touching ground on Promised Land


Nefesh B’Nefesh’s 64th chartered aliyah flight brought 215 olim frm the United States and Canada to Ben Gurior Airport, last week.

Onboard were 22 families with 75 children, 15 single men and women, 17 retirees. The youngest oleh on the flight was 4 months old, and the oldest was 77. Among those making aliyah were 7 doctors and 15 health professionals who will be integrating into the Israeli medical system, 27 people who are part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh-KKL Go Beyond initiative and will settle in Israel’s peripheral regions and Jerusalem.   

“Each and every oleh carries with them a unique story, yet what bonds them together is a unified love for our homeland, shared goals and collective action,” said NBN Co-Founder and Executive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass. “It teaches us that diversity exists within unity — that shared values and commitment can bind different individuals and groups together. Watching each of these olim walk onto the tarmac and witness their elation as they take their initial steps in their new homes is both inspiring and moving. We are honored to continue to be a part of the next chapter in each of their aliyah journeys.”

“With each flight of new olim arriving to Israel, we are empowering the fulfillment of the Zionist dream and strengthening the state of Israel, ‘the one and only miracle’,” said Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Major General (res.) Doron Almog. “The families and young olim that are coming to Israel are a live example of unconditional love. We are welcoming them with a loving warm hug.”

The flight also saw a heartfelt reunion. Amongst the olim was 77-year-old Carol Ginsberg, whose daughter Laura Ben David made aliyah on the first NBN charter flight back in 2002.

Twenty-one years ago, when Laura told my late husband, Marty, and I that she was moving to Israel with some new organization, we thought it was crazy,” Carol recounted in tears: “To see how she has grown and developed over the years while living in Israel has been wonderful for me to witness and as a mother, I couldn’t be more proud. It has made me even prouder seeing my other daughters join her in Israel, Hindy and Hudi, who both made aliyah in 2009. Even though I know Marty would have loved to be here with us, I am excited to join my daughters and make aliyah with Nefesh B’Nefesh, as another piece of the puzzle of my family’s aliyah journey.”

About a quarter of the olim on last week’s flight are young men and women who have chosen to volunteer in the IDF. They will be drafting as lone soldiers with Garin Tzabar, a Friends of Israel Scouts program which offers support before and throughout military service, by way of coordinating communities around Israel to serve as a home away from home for these individuals. Their absorption period will also include educational tours in Israel, ulpan Hebrew studies, and an introduction to the Israeli military structure.

“It was my absolute joy to welcome these new Olim upon their arrival in Israel. It is especially exciting to see families with kids and young adults embrace the Zionist dream of making Aliyah,” said Minister of Aliyah and Integration, Ofir Sofer. “Since becoming minister, I have made it my personal goal to increase the number of Olim from the US and have a various number of programs expected to launch soon with this objective in mind. Together with our dear partners, Nefesh B’Nefesh, I believe we can accomplish this goal.”

KKL-JNF’s Chairwoman, Ifat Ovadia-Luski, congratulated the Olim saying, “It is exciting to see Jews, throbbing with Zionist spirit, continue to make aliyah despite the many challenges. I wish you much success in your new lives in Israel, and please know we are here by your side.”

Minister of Interior and Health, Moshe Arbel, said representatives of the ministry accompanied olim on the charter flight “to further remove some of the bureaucratic barriers even prior to their landing in Israel.

“I wish all the olim success in their new lives in Israel and am confident they will make significant contributions to strengthening the medical system in Israel,” he said.

Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA, strives to facilitate and celebrate aliyah, advocate for Olim, and education towards a stronger connection to Israel.

By minimizing financial, professional, logistical, and social obstacles, olim are able to actualize their dreams and continue building a stronger Israel. The support and comprehensive social services provided by Nefesh B’Nefesh to its 75,000 new immigrants have ensured that 90 percent have remained in Israel, NBN said.

The olim represent a diverse group of individuals, both geographically and professionally, coming from New York, New Jersey, California, Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Ontario, Minnesota, Illinois and elsewhere.

Last summer, a pilot initiative to further streamline the aliyah processing was offered to a handful of olim when representatives of Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah & Integration and the Population and Immigration Authority handed out Teudot Oleh (immigration certificates) while onboard. For the first time, this opportunity was extended to all the passengers on this year’s charter. While still on the flight, olim filled out relevant forms and were handed their Teudot, finalizing their aliyah processing.

Reporting by Nefesh B’Nefesh.