New immigrants arrive in Israel, many coming alone to serve in the nation’s military. Photo: courtesy of Nefesh B’Nefesh.

By Shmuel Perlman

After a three-year hiatus due to the worldwide pandemic, Nefesh BNefesh is back in full swing. On Tuesday, 225 driven people made the bold decision, jumped in, and made the move. These brave Yidden are fulfilling every Jews’ dream to make aliyah to Eretz Hakodesh, while awaiting the building of the third Beis Hamikdash.

The charter flight, consisting of 31 families, 99 children, and many professionals, among others, met at JFK Airport on Tuesday morning. All were accompanied by family to see them off. NBN, celebrating its 20th anniversary, did a world class job of making everyone as comfortable as possible. There were kids’ projects, food, and entertainment. A number of notable speakers expressed their admiration to the new olim and their families. Tony Gelbart, chairman and co-founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh, said this is his 63rd flight in his 20 years. Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of NBN, mentioned that during Covid, 8,000 people made aliyah. Some of the other speakers included the Israeli Consul General and the local El Al general manager.

After the speakers, the families were given time to say goodbye. There were lots of tearful departures. These were tears of joy, perhaps similar to the shevatim meeting Yosef. On the flight, the representatives of the Israeli Interior Ministry were present setting up an office to process the new olim, thereby making their initial entry into the country as smooth and seamless as possible.

Among the olim, (see Heard In The Bagel Store) was the son of one of our local residents from Woodmere who asked not to be identified. In our conversation, he explained that he works for a subdivision of a major real estate corporation. He has been working remotely for the last few years and this enabled him to make aliyah. He suspects that the parent company wouldn’t be happy if they knew he made aliyah and was working from the Holy Land. Without giving away too many details, our friend is married for seven years, has three beautiful children, and will be moving to Bet Shemesh. His wife was a school psychologist. He was a student in HALB and D.R.S followed by a stint in Netiv. We met his parents in the airport. They expressed how proud they were of their son and family. They said his making aliyah “makes us one step closer.”

Another family of olim is Ari and Nili Carmen from Chicago. Nili is the niece of well-known Five Towns residents Maiku and Dr. Rachel Diamond. Ari is a stay-at-home dad, and his wife is a pediatrician. In March, NBN had a Medex presentation, where representatives of the health ministry and the scientific council came to meet doctors who were contemplating aliyah. Nili said the pay for her job in Chicago and her upcoming job in Israel were comparable. Apparently being a pediatrician in Israel is a specialty. They sold their house in Chicago and will be renting in Efrat, where Rabbi Kenneth Brander, another NBN “graduate,” is the rabbi.

Ari says he is the third generation in his family making aliyah. His grandmother made aliyah from Toronto to Palestine in 1932 to Tel Aviv where she told him there were only sand dunes. When her father died a number of years later, they were forced to move back. Ari’s father made aliyah in 1970 to Katamon. Hopefully the Carmens will be the chut hameshulash that won’t be severed.

The Heidi Rothberg Flight was cosponsored by Heidi Rothberg from Ireland, Lou Cohen from Baltimore, and the Grossman family from New Jersey. The 63rd Nefesh B’Nefesh chartered aliyah flight through El Al Israel Airlines is coordinated in partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah & Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL), and Jewish National Fund-USA. 

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