Photo Credit: Yonit Schiller
The NBN group arrives in Israel. May 5, 2020.

18 Olim (immigrants to Israel) from the US landed at Ben Gurion airport Tuesday evening, the latest group to land in Israel amid a recent wave of increased interest in Aliyah among North American Jews.

The new Olim went into a 14-day quarantine as mandated by the Israeli government.

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They ranged in ages from one-years-old to 66-years-old and hailed from New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida and Illinois, and will be living in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh, Ramat Gan and Yafo.

“Ever since my wife and I first visited Israel over 30 years ago, we have been dreaming of the day when we could come home permanently,” said new Oleh from Cleveland, Ken Goldblatt.

“After many visits, and years of instilling a love of Israel in our children, we are excited to be joining our daughter in Israel, where she will soon be getting married, and look forward to welcoming our son and his family in the next two months! While it is difficult to leave family and friends in America, we hope to travel back often to visit,” he added.

Although flights have been grounded nearly everywhere over recent months, Aliyah continued in the past weeks with 961 immigrants arriving in Israel in March.

Similarly, Nefesh B’Nefesh reported that throughout April 2020, 455 new Aliyah applications were submitted to the organization, in comparison to 302 in April 2019, and 642 individuals downloaded and began working on their Aliyah applications, in comparison to 417 downloaded applications in April 2019.

May 2020 is showing a similar pattern with an even greater increase.

Israeli Minister of Aliyah and Integration Yoav Galant stated that “the absorption of Olim has been a national mission since the founding of the State until today. Even during wars and crises, this activity does not cease. The gates of Israel are open to Olim at all times and this gives me great pride!”

David Breakstone, Deputy Chairman of the Executive, The Jewish Agency for Israel added that “the commitment of those who chose to make Aliyah now, in these uncertain times, is remarkable and very moving. It is matched by the commitment on our side to take the steps needed to enable the continuation of Aliyah to Israel.”

This latest group Nefesh B’Nefesh-organized flight follows 20 Olim who made Aliyah last Thursday through Guided Aliyah, a process in which individuals already living in Israel officially change their status to Israeli citizens.

Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh in cooperation with the Israeli government and The Jewish Agency for Israel, is dedicated to revitalizing Aliyah from North America and the UK by removing or minimizing the financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles of Aliyah.

The support and comprehensive social services provided by Nefesh B’Nefesh to its over 60,000 newcomers has ensured that over 90% of its Olim have remained in Israel.

Israel has welcomed more than 255,000 Olim from 150 different countries in the past decade.

Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, 3.3 million people have made Aliyah, making up 42 percent of the total population.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.