Over 570 Montreal residents landed in Israel Thursday ahead of an eight-day “mega mission” to the Jewish state organized by the Federation CJA of Montreal. Over 20% of the visitors were in Israel for the first time in their lives.

The visitors, whose ages range from 19 to 94, will be greeted by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat later Thursday.

During the tour, described by the Federation CJA as the “most ambitious mission to Israel in close to 20 years,” the visitors are set to participate in a ceremony recognizing excellence in service among the IDF soldiers from the prestigious Unit 8200 which will take place in Masada. Later next week, 14 of the mission’s participants will sit in on a private lecture by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Montreal mission will also celebrate its connection with Israel in an event set to take place in Latrun. The event, which will be attended by over 2,000 people, including IDF soldiers, past Montrealers living in Israel and Birthright Israel participants, will feature keynote speaker Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and live entertainment by Shiri Maimon.

The Bronfman family, among the largest Canadian philanthropists, will be honored at the event as well, in recognition of its “philanthropic & transformative commitment to Israel and the Jewish World,” a statement issued by the Federation CJA read.

The federation had originally hoped to sign up 1,000 participants to the mission when plans were announced last year, but failed to reach its goal.

Over the past 26 years, the Montreal Jewish community, led by the Federation CJA, has invested approximately $50 million in programs in Beersheba and Bnei Shimon, including direct investments in partnership programs with the Jewish Agency for Israel and Keren Hayesod.