Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Col. (Res.) Golan Vach

For years, Col. (Res.) Golan Vach has been at the forefront of Israel’s search and rescue efforts following disasters all over the globe.  His missions have taken him to disaster zones from Turkey to Japan as well as leading the recovery effort in Miami in the wake of the Surfside building collapse.  But after October 7th he was called into what would likely be the most challenging, and ongoing, rescue effort of his military career, leading the IDF’s Search and Rescue teams in the wake of the Hamas attack and resulting war.

Serving as a rescue commander at some of the sites of Hamas’s most brutal crimes perpetrated on that horrific day, he says that the events motivated him to expand attention to his non-military work; facilitating Aliyah from around the world.

American olim arrive at Ben Gurion airport, July 23, 2013 (archive). / Yossi Zeliger/ Flash90

Vach is the CEO of Israela, an organization that works to promote immigration to Israel by bringing together like-minded Jews seeking support before making the big move.  The initiative is an outgrowth of L’Alyah De Groupe, which was founded 30 years ago by Vach’s father to serve French Jewry.  In partnership with World Mizrachi, three years ago Israela launched the service in other parts of the world, and Vach says now is the time to make its services available to all of Diaspora Jewry with a focus on the English-speaking community.

In recent weeks, the 2024 Israela delegation toured Israel on a “pilot trip” to explore schools and employment opportunities and is preparing for their move over the coming months.  The group, consisting of 15 families from the US, Canada, and Australia, has taken the name of Group Daniel, named in memory of Daniel Perez, an IDF officer who was killed on October 7th and whose body remains in captivity in Gaza.  Perez is the son of Rabbi Doron Perez, Chair of World Mizrachi which is a partner with Israela in facilitating this community-based model of Aliyah.   The families will be moving together in two groups, one to the fast-developing new community of Carmei Gat and the second to Petach Tikva.

Jewish American olim arrive at Ben Gurion airport, July 19, 2016. / Yossi Zamir/Flash90

“Daniel himself was someone who came on Aliyah with his family and paid the ultimate sacrifice on that horrific day in defense of our country while heroically fighting, killing dozens of terrorists, and saving many lives . By associating this group with his name, we will work to ensure that his memory remains alive, and in particular that his life and love for the land will serve to inspire others who choose to come home during these historic times,” explains Ilan Goldman, Director of Aliyah at Israela.

Israela’s work begins long before the Aliyah flight takes off.  The underlying concept behind the organization’s approach is to have families move in groups to provide social stability and support.

“When we realized exactly what it means to come as a group and not come alone, the recognition was so immense for us that we immediately changed our plans,” says Perachya Sorcher, who will be moving with his wife Ronit and two children from Brooklyn, NY as part of the 2024 Israela group.

New olim from North America arrive at Ben Gurion airport, August 14, 2019. / Flash90

Chana Chaiton from Sydney, Australia will be moving with her husband Eli and four children.  She says “Having that support of coming as a group together and knowing that my children are going along this journey with other children in the same category and with the same problems that they might face brings me comfort that they’ll be going through it together. Any questions that we might have along the way, the group will be here to support each other and Israela will be there to help us with these challenges.”

In addition to arranging and facilitating pilot trips in advance of the actual aliya date, Israela also helps the groups find housing in the same communities and then integrate into local schools and other social frameworks.  Besides the overall practical benefit of their services, the organization prides itself on opening up opportunities in communities that some potential olim might never consider.  “By moving with people you already know and feel comfortable with, you can feel more confident choosing communities that aren’t typically known as Aliyah landing pads.  Our approach has proven that full acclimation for families is possible in all types of communities around Israel,” explains Ilan Goldman.

“We are very excited to take the many decades of experience that Israela has in other parts of the world and now bring that to the English-speaking communities,” Vach says.  “While we know that Aliyah is a necessary response to creating a stronger Israel in the wake of this tragedy, we also understand that it’s not an easy decision to make.  We invite people to find out why this model can help you and your family’s aliya succeed.  Every Jewish family that comes home is the ultimate response to what our enemies hoped to achieve.  They may have wanted to destroy us but your Aliyah is proof that they have failed.”

“Many people are feeling the magnetic call to return to the national home of our people and to make their aliya dream into a reality,” says Rabbi Doron Perez, Chair of World Mizrachi.  “The beauty of Israela’s work is that it helps remove some of the main concerns and obstacles families have with Aliyah and creates a framework where more and more people can make this dream come true in as smooth a way as possible. As someone who himself made Aliyah from South Africa, we see it as a distinct honor to have Daniel’s name associated with this initiative-  we hope and pray it will assist the many families in the privileged journey home.”

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