“During the holiday of Hanukkah we commemorate the miracles and wonders experienced by the Jewish people thousands of years ago during the days of the Maccabees. Today, as we welcome these 72 new olim to Israel, we celebrate our own modern-day miracle, Aliyah,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of 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 United Kingdom by removing or minimizing financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles.The 20 young men and women who arrived in Israel to serve in the IDF are drafting with Tzofim-Garin Tzabar, a program that provides them with a support system throughout the course of their military service. They will also be part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program, which in cooperation with Friends of the IDF (FIDF), cares for all lone soldier immigrants during each stage of their journey: pre-immigration, pre-recruitment, active military service, and adjustment to civilian life after release from the army.
One of the new immigrants, Joy Cohen, a 20-year-old lone solider from Brooklyn, New York, described her decision to enlist in the IDF in strong terms:
When I chose to leave my privileged life in Brooklyn and to help my country, it seemed like it was perfect timing during Hanukkah. Someone tries and takes away our self-determination, so what do we do? We fight! We’re fighters. … My heritage has made me proud and stronger. It has taught me to never ever give up.
In addition to the lone soldiers, the 72 new immigrants also include 17 people who will be part of Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Go North and Go South programs. The goal of these initiatives is to invigorate Israel’s periphery communities with idealistic olim from North America.
Coverage of lone soldiers by The Philadelphia Jewish Voice over the years is available here.