— by Rebecca (Langer) Modell
Gilad Shalit accompanied the 231 North American Olima board this summer’s first charter Aliyah flight including Nefesh b’Nefesh’s 35,000th Oleh
El-Al flight 3004 landed Monday morning at Ben Gurion Airport with 231 new Israeli citizens aboard. Even before they took off, the passengers knew not to expect getting any sleep, as close to 50% of the occupants were children. This is a new record of children arriving on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight in cooperation with The Jewish Agency for Israel. The 106 young Olim are joining a whopping 989 children who will be making Aliyah throughout 2013 with Nefesh B’Nefesh in cooperation with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth L’Israel and JNF. This is an increase of 20%, compared to 822 children that made Aliyah in 2012.
In anticipation of the arrival, Nefesh B’Nefesh prepared reinforcements to help the parents watch over their children and keep them occupied during the long flight and at the arrival ceremony. Amongst the activities that awaited the children were Aliyah coloring books, games and custom-made t-shirts. Former Israeli IDF captive, Gilad Shalit, also joined the flight as a show of support and appreciation for the thousands of North American Olim who are fulfilling their dream to return to Israel and their contribution to the State of Israel.
Also on board were 41 families, including the 106 children as well as 54 singles — 13 of whom will be joining the IDF. Also of note were the 41 Olim moving to Israel’s periphery as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh and Keren Kayemeth L’Israel Go North and Go South programs.
The Children’s Aliyah Flight reminds us for the story of the Kindertransport which saved “some ten thousand Jewish children out of Nazi Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the free city of Danzig nine month prior to the outbreak of World War II. For the most part, the children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, and farms. One of those children, fourteen-year-old Viennese native Renee Perl, was destined to become the mother of congressional representative Allyson Schwartz, Democrat of Pennsylvania.”
(Source:The Jews of Capitol Hill: A Compendium of Jewish Congressional Members)
The Co-Founder and Chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Tony Gelbart said:
As we welcome our 35,000th Oleh, it is exciting to see so many children amongst the Zionistic modern day pioneers who are helping to build and secure the future of the State of Israel. This new generation is joining young adults volunteering for the IDF and Olim moving to Israel’s North and South to help strengthen the periphery, to infuse the country with renewed passion and idealism.
The Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver said:
I am happy to welcome over 100 children who are making Aliyah today through Nefesh B’Nefesh and joining us here in Israel. Aliyah from North America is extremely important and makes us stronger as a nation.
The Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky said:
The Jewish Agency, which brings tens of thousands of Olim from across the globe sees Nefesh B’Nefesh as a dedicated partner in this important work. The children and their parents who are arriving on this Olim flight from North America represent the future of Israel and every one of them strengthens Israeli society.
Hundreds of families and friends as well as Israeli dignitaries gathered at Ben Gurion Airport to welcome the country’s newest citizens at the arrival ceremony.
Those present included:
- Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver;
- Member of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption & Diaspora Affairs MK Dov Lipman;
- Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky;
- World Chairman of KKL-JNF, Effie Stenzler;
- Vice President Global Sales of El Al, Offer Gat;
- Vice Chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh Erez Halfon and
- Co-Founders of Nefesh B’Nefesh Rabbi Yehoshua Fass & Tony Gelbart.
Photo credit: Shafar Azran and Peter Hamalgyi.
About Nefesh B’Nefesh: Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh in cooperation with the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel, is dedicated to revitalizing Aliyah from North America and the UK by removing or minimizing the financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles of Aliyah. The support and comprehensive social services provided by Nefesh B’Nefesh to its over 35,000 newcomers, has ensured that 97% of its Olim have remained in Israel.