June 15, 2024
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228 From North America Head to Israel

New York—Despite the war in Gaza, 228 new Olim (immigrants) from the United States and Canada departed from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on July 21, on a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight to Israel. Of these Olim, a remarkable 100 were children making aliyah with their parents. The children include 39 girls and 61 boys. All together, 29 families and 54 singles were on this landmark flight, which took place in collaboration with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorp­tion, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kay­emeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA.

Due to the complicated security situation in Israel, Nefesh B’Nefesh is reaching out to the Olim, briefing them, and providing counseling and support. As they arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, each Oleh re­ceives a special booklet by Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption on security measures, such as what to do when a Code Red siren sounds warning of incoming rockets. The Olim are also provided an English-language manual from Israel’s Home Front Command on how to talk to your children about the situation, translated by Nefesh B’Nefesh.

“Cancelling or postponing our trip was never an option. Even though we’re flying into a war zone, we’re just as excited as we always were,” said Sarah Bergman, 31 of Waterbury, Connecticut, who will be making aliyah to Even Shmuel with her husband, Fred, 34, and children, Eliyahu, 10, Zev, 8, Azriel, 6 and Elishe­va, 2. “We are preparing our children by watch­ing videos and talking about the situation. Our family is concerned, but this is where we’re go­ing,” she added.

Dozens of these Olim are planning to live in Israel’s south and north, as part of a joint project to settle Olim in the Negev and the Galilee. Those who are planning to live in the south also received special briefings about the security situation, such as infor­mation about trauma counseling and sup­port from English-speaking Olim living in the south.

A number of Israeli dignitaries greeted the new Olim as they touched down in Is­rael as new citizens, among them Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, Sofa Landver; MK Rabbi Dov Lipman; Chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharan­sky; Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Yisrael Meir Lau; and Founders of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass who escorted the flight.

“The decision to make aliyah is not a sim­ple one, especially in the current situation; it is a courageous and important one,” said Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption MK Sofa Landver. “The continuing massive aliyah of families and children, especially in these times of crisis, strengthens the resolve of our nation and serves as a proof that Israel is the one and only home of the Jewish nation.”

Chair of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky added: “That so many Jews from the West are joining us of their own free will is the best answer to those who still try to destroy us. This flight is yet another step in the ingathering of the exiles, and we look forward to welcom­ing these new Israelis home.”

“Today’s aliyah flight demonstrates the great resilience of the Jewish people and its determination to build the State of Israel,” said Nefesh B’Nefesh Co-Founder and Exec­utive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass. “These Olim, who are choosing to move to Israel in these difficult times, are instilling hope, optimism, and strength throughout Isra­el and the Jewish nation. The outpouring number of requests we received to join the flight out of solidarity for the citizens of Is­rael is inspiring.”

Among the approximately 230 Amer­icans making aliyah on Tuesday morning were a few Bergen County natives.

Kal and Barbara Feinberg, originally of Teaneck, are moving to Israel to spend more time with their three children and 13 grandchildren, who already live in Isra­el. “It’s wonderful to come to Israel now, to show support for our brothers here, es­pecially the IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza,” said Mrs. Feinberg, “We’re looking forward to spending more time with our family; it’s been so difficult living 6,000 miles away from them.”

The Feinbergs are moving to the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem, and are looking forward to becoming part of the sizeable An­glo community there, though the Feinbergs did express their concerns about the cultural and language barriers that they will be facing shortly.

Also from Teaneck was Ilana Barta, who has been making the news recently as her aliyah is dramatically taking place less than a month before her wedding, with her fian­cé currently serving in the IDF deployed to Gaza. Ilana shared her inspiring perspective for JLBC readers: “I grew up in a Modern Orthodox household, went to Bnei Akiva camps, and it was very clear to me from a young age that Israel is the place to be. I’ve always wanted to do my part and come to live here.”

Ilana met her future husband, Aki­va from Efrat, in camp and they dated for three-and-a-half years, mostly long dis­tance, before he proposed to her. Ilana has been trying to raise aliyah awareness by spreading her story throughout the world, going as far as carrying her wedding dress on the flight, which she proudly showed me before calling on Jews worldwide to come to live in Israel. “I’m here today doing my part, my fiancé is doing his, and now it’s time for everyone to do theirs as well.”

By Tzvi Silver and Combined Sources

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