Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This is what it looks like when 200 immigrants land in Israel to start over

Photo: Mimi Banks
A message to new olim arriving 
at Ben Gurion Airport: "You made it!" 
By Leslie Katz

Happy September! For many, the High Holy Days are a time for forging new beginnings. All this month, to mark the start of the new year, we'll feature stories of #JNF #NewBeginnings here on the Jewish National Fund blog, and on JNF's Facebook and Instagram pages.

You'll read about Rahma, a severely disabled little girl abandoned by her parents at birth and living at Aleh Negev. A couple who regularly visited her at the facility for special-needs residents just adopted her and brought her to her new home. 

You'll learn more about life in Halutza, a Negev desert community populated by Jewish settlers evacuated from Gaza during Israel's 2005 disengagement. Where there was once only sand, these pioneers have built a thriving world of houses, schools, solar fields and farms -- in the span of just 10 years

And what could possibly represent a new beginning more than packing up and moving to a new country? In the photo gallery below, you'll see what it looks like when a planeload of North American immigrants disembark at Ben Gurion Airport and experience their first few moments as Israeli citizens. 

The plane was chartered by JNF partner Nefesh B'Nefesh, which guides new olim through the logistics of preparing to make aliyah, helping them find new homes and jobs, offering a free direct flight for the final leg of their journey, and providing support on the ground once they've made the big move. The Nefesh B'Nefesh charter flights are high-profile celebratory events covered by Israeli media and simulcast live. 

Below are scenes from a July charter flight that brought more than 200 new olim to Israel from places including Canada, California, Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia, among others. 

The new arrivals stepped off the plane on a hot Tuesday morning to huge cheers from a crowd of friends, family, and strangers – IDF soldiers, students, and others -- holding brightly colored homemade welcome signs, waving Israeli flags, joyously dancing in circles and singing along to Hebrew songs blasting over loudspeakers. Once they made it through the throngs of well-wishers, government dignitaries welcomed them at a ceremony inside the airport. 

Many olim had tears in their eyes as they got off the plane and absorbed the exuberant scene before them -- and the reality that they were about to start the new lives they'd dreamed about for so long.

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