Nefesh B’Nefesh transported 338 olim from North America to Israel this week, continuing its 12 year run of facilitating the return of Jews to their homeland.
The olim — including 108 IDF soldiers, a six week old infant, a 93 year old great-grandmother, 37 families, 107 children and two sets of twins — left from JFK in New York with great fanfare at midday on Monday and were welcomed by dignitaries at Ben-Gurion Airport with warmth and admiration on Tuesday morning.
The Jewish Star accompanied the olim on their life-changing journey.
At a departing ceremony near the JFK synagogue, Israel Knesset member Rabbi Dov Lipman, himself a former NBN oleh with his family from Baltimore, said that Jews are no longer fleeing, broken, to Israel, but are going upright, fulfilling prophecies.
Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, a Nefesh founder, cited the miracle that “our grandparents couldn’t imagine this day — returning to Israel as if dreaming.” Despite the conflict over Gaza, no olim had withdrawn; others wanted to advance their aliyah but there was no room on the flight, he said.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said that Israel is “worth fighting for and living for,” noting that there have been more olim to Israel this summer than rockets against Israel.
As the passengers settled onto the plane, buckled their seat belts and prepared for take off, Rabbi Fass said over the loudspeaker, “There’s no turning back, the doors are closed now, nesiyah tova and have a wonderful journey back home.” The pilot welcomed the olim on board and said that El Al is the “airline of the Jewish people, bringing you home with a plane with a Jewish star on the tail.”
Staff on board processed passports and other documents and during the flight as passengers gathered in the aisles, talking, reinforcing friendships, in an atmosphere of a family gathering rather than an international flight, with people scrambling for seats when the seatbelt sign went on for turbulence.
The soldiers changed into olive green T-shirts near the end of the flight and disembarked first, sitting in a group on the tarmac by the side of the plane.