We in Israel need Nefesh B’Nefesh. Every time this organization brings in another planeload of olim, the welcome is so uplifting, the arrival is so exciting, the emotional high is so stimulating, that several old-timers go to the airport ceremonies just to be reminded how important American and Canadian aliyah is. They also witness the fantastic job of cutting through the usual Israeli red tape that Nefesh B’Nefesh has accomplished.
Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Fass are examples of how one or two people can create amazing changes in society. Their efforts to bring American and Canadian Jews to Israel have been very successful and they have also created a small revolution in several Israeli government offices. Thanks in part to the demands of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Israeli government offices are planning to reduce bureaucracy and make their operations more efficient, thereby making life a little more comfortable for all Israelis.
The latest flight had over 250 new immigrants. As they left the plane, some parents gathered their children and quietly recited the “Shehecheyanu” prayer: “Thank You G-d for letting me live to see this day.” Others knelt down to kiss the oil-stained tarmac as they realized that they had succeeded in becoming new citizens of the Land of Israel. As on the previous flight, some 40 young singles had come to settle in Israel to bring their spirit, new ideas and strength to our homeland. Several greeters sounded a welcome blast on the Shofar reminding us that this arrival was a mitzvah that will be remembered by Hashem during the High Holy Days that will soon be here. The remainder just sang and cheered with joy to welcome the new Olim with “Shalom Aleichem.”
All along the tarmac, from the plane to the huge hanger used by Nefesh B’Nefesh for the welcoming ceremonies, Israeli soldiers stood with little Israeli flags to welcome the olim home and to help them and escort them to the hanger. It was a heart-warming sight that brought big smiles to the faces of the olim and especially to the children.
We had gathered by 7:00 in the morning for the arrival ceremonies. Some people did not even have a chance to daven, but decided to come anyway, and they davened while waiting for the plane to land. A young doctor, who remembered that I had been the one to greet him when his family made aliyah, came to liven up the event with his pump and balloons and kept the little children smiling. He has put on similar shows in Israeli hospitals because he believes that joy and laughter helps heal many ailments.
In the past, olim fresh off the plane after 11 sleepless hours would be asked to sit through two hours of welcoming speeches. Nefesh B’Nefesh has streamlined the welcome to a perfect blend of speeches and entertainment and the olim appreciated it.
Three of the families came to live in Hashmonaim: the Offenbach family, the Mark family and the Feldman family. One of the cutest families was the Felstein family with each member of the family wearing a family aliyah portrait tee shirt.
The olim will never forget this day in their lives when they finally came home. When are you coming home?
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