Saturday, August 12, 2006

Nefesh B'Nefesh Chai! Nefesh B'Nefesh Lives!

Nefesh B'Nefesh Chai! Nefesh B'Nefesh Lives!

On August 10th, 2006, thirty-six years after my own Aliyah, I came home to Israel on
Nefesh B'Nefesh's 18th Aliyah flight. The Gematriya, numeric value, of the Hebrew word "chai," which means "lives," is eighteen.

There's a war going on here in Israel, and I was expecting to be notified of a cancellation or postponement, but the flight went off as planned. Rabbi Fass, the co-founder of Nefesh B'Nefesh announced that "not a single one" of the more than two-hundred and forty olim (immigrants) cancelled.

Not only was I amazed and impressed, but flight crew on our El Al plane was moved to tears at times. They found it hard to believe.

The immigrants I asked insisted that the war changed nothing for them. They had decided to make Aliyah and nothing was going to stop them. I heard the same answer from the youth joining the army, the young families, the middle-aged and the elderly.

Yes, we had tiny infants, the very old and all ages in between. Among the oldest olim were the Goldfarbs, who had been forced to flee New Orleans, when Hurricane Katrina hit. After a year in New Jersey, they were off to become Israelis.

There were at least three sets of twins on the plane, and the ones who attracted the most attention were eighteen year olds, Yoav and Avi Schaefer, from Santa Barbara, California. They're planning on joining the army in November. Another future soldier is Scott Blumberg, 20, from Baltimore. I must say that their parents all looked very proud of their boys!

Janet Wilson, formerly head of the Health and Physical Education Department of Binghamton University, retired and is joining her husband who made Aliyah a few months ago.

There were many young families with lots of children, and as they waited in the airport, people talked; nobody felt like strangers. Two thirteen year old boys, Ari Levin and Yehuda Twersky, discovered that they would both be studying in Orot Etzion in Gush Etzion. They became instant friends.

Besides Gush Etzion, another popular place is Chashmonayim, which is attracting a number of olim chadashim (new immigrants.) That will be the new home for Moshe and Chaya Fuld and children, who are joining his many relatives in Israel, and the musician and simcha planner, Gary Wallin and family.

Yiddish was heard on the plane, as a large chareidi family was on its way from Union, NJ, to Petach Tikvah.

Bob Kaitz and family will be living in Rechovot, where he'll be working in the Weitzman Institute.

There were also "returning Israelis," like Yair, who was bringing home his wife, Jeanette, and one year old twin girls, who are olim chadashim.

Quite a few young adults were from "Garin Tzabar," an Aliyah movement for children of Israelis, or those young yordim who want to return to Israel to live, even though their parents are still abroad.

Many of the young people, the single olim, had been in Young Judea and on its Year in Israel Program. Among them was Benji Lovitt, off to Tel Aviv in his Crocs, where he'll fit in fine.

Elisheva Siporen, a librarian, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, will be living in Jerusalem.

It was truly amazing traveling with Nefesh B'Nefesh. They have brought the Aliyah experience to a totally new level. So much care is taken with all sorts of details, starting with the very mundane of providing water to drink in the airports. On the flight much of the bureaucracy is taken care of, so that there will be less to do after landing. They provide pre and post Aliyah counseling, too. And now the Jewish Agency is working together with them and does a better job than ever before.

I also think that the welcome in Ben Gurion Airport organized for each plane adds to the positive feeling. And this isn't just to benefit the olim; it is also a great thrill for those who greet the immigrants. Some of those there just went to make themselves feel better.

Good luck to all the olim, and thank you to Nefesh B'Nefesh!

Pictures will be posted/sent later.


westbankmama said...

Great post - it makes me feel great also!

Batya said...


Meeting the olim chadashim is great medicine for us all!

Benji Lovitt said...

Well well well...lookee what I found! How in the world did you know who I was?

Batya said...

I interviewed you. And I probably took your picture, too.
I was on the plane.