The Babani family at New York’s JFK airport, moments before they boarded the plane to Israel. (photo by Shahar Azran via Nefesh b’Nefesh)
Despite tensions surrounding the war in Gaza, 338 new olim (immigrants) from the United States and Canada departed on an aliyah charter flight to Israel on Aug. 11. The special flight is a joint venture of Nefesh b’Nefesh, the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, and Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel, JNF-USA and Tzofim Garin Tzabar.
Among the olim are Nir Babani and Luz Arroyave with their daughter Antonia from Vancouver. “We’re going to miss our family and the peaceful environment of Vancouver. We’ll miss the quality life there,” said Arroyave.
The large group of olim includes 37 families with 107 children. The passenger list also includes 65 olim moving to the Galilee and the Negev as part of the Nefesh b’Nefesh and Keren Kayemeth L’Israel Go North and Go South programs. Altogether, the olim will be settling in every part of Israel, from Ma’alot in the north to Eilat in the south. Included in the group of olim are 109 young men and women who will be serving in the Israel Defence Forces.
The olim hail from 27 states and three Canadian provinces, from Arizona to Quebec, and range in age from a six-week-old baby to a 93-year-old great-grandparent in a family of four generations making aliyah together.
“I find it profoundly inspiring that we have a 747 jumbo jet filled to capacity with people from the North American Jewish community making aliyah, especially at such a challenging time,” said co-founder and executive director of Nefesh b’Nefesh Rabbi Yehoshua Fass. “To see that Jews everywhere, young and old, religious and secular, are determined to fulfil the dream of helping to build the Jewish state is truly amazing.”
This summer, 2,000 olim are expected to have made aliyah with Nefesh b’Nefesh on eight different flights. Since the beginning of the year, about 1,600 olim have made aliyah with the organization. Since 2002, Nefesh b’Nefesh has brought nearly 40,000 olim to Israel from the United States, Canada and England.