300 Olim Welcomed by Herzog, Sharansky

“It’s not easy to come to Israel, but you know why you’re here – you came here because you want to be home,” former chief rabbi Israel Meir Lau said.
In all, 3,633 North Americans immigrated to Israel among some 29,000 total new immigrants in 2018. (Larry Luxner)

Cheers of “Am Yisrael chai” (the People of Israel live!) greeted 300 olim (immigrants to Israel) as they disembarked from their plane at Ben-Gurion Airport and set foot in their new home on Monday. About 400 people, including members of Jewish youth groups waving Israeli flags, welcomed the new immigrants from France, Russia and South America as the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod celebrated the country’s 70th birthday.

Among the olim are 70 children who are going to dive right into the Israeli educational system as the summer vacation is underway.

“None of the olim today can complain of receiving a cold reception,” former chief rabbi Israel Meir Lau joked as the crowd gathered in an airplane hangar, enjoying a short respite from the sweltering summer heat.

Incoming Jewish Agency head Isaac Herzog told the audience, as he stood beside current chairman Natan Sharansky, that: “I’m very thrilled to be here. I’m taking on this role after Natan Sharansky and I can commit that the Jewish Agency will do everything to ensure you have a life of prosperity and happiness.”

Jews land in Israel after making aliyah

Sharansky, who is stepping down next month after seven years at the post, seemed visibly moved when Ethiopian children from Beersheba sang and embraced him as he witnessed his last aliyah flight as chairman.

“Despite all the challenges of today in Israel, and despite all the slander against it, Jews continue to make aliyah – and the number of immigrants is rising from year to year,” Sharansky said. “The 300 immigrants who came from all over the world on the day after Tisha Be’av are a guarantee that there will be no return to the past and that the State of Israel will [continue to] be even stronger.”

Also in attendance were Aliyah and Absorption minister Sofa Landver and Christenen voor Israel (Christians for Israel - C4I) chairman Pim van der Hoff, whose organization helped fund Monday’s flight.

When Herzog was asked what advice he would give to the immigrants, he suggested that they make an effort to become fully enmeshed in Israeli society. “Get involved in Israeli society, make your voice heard and be part of the change you want to see,” he said.

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