A flight of 338 new immigrants from north American arrived in Israel Tuesday morning, including over 100 young men and women who will head almost immediately into army service.
The 108 soldiers-to be, aged 18-23, arrived at Ben-Gurion airport on a flight chartered by immigrant aid group Nefesh B’nefesh, where they were greeted by President Reuven Rivlin, among others.
Each of the soldiers was presented with a personalized certificate informing them that the Jewish National Fund will plant a tree in their honor as part of campaign to encourage development in southern Israel.
The flight was one of several flown by Nefesh B’Nefesh each year bringing several thousand immigrants to Israel, including hundreds of people in the Garin Tzabar program, which places them in army units.
The role of North American immigrants in the Israeli army got wide attention last month after two US-born soldiers — Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg — were killed during fighting in Gaza.
“It is heartwarming to see young men and women, who despite these challenging times, are leaving their comfortable lives in the Diaspora to [immigrate] and serve and defend the State of Israel,” Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said. “The [immigrants] who are continuing to move to Israel are strengthening us all, especially these determined young people who will be joining the IDF in combative and significant roles. You are the symbol of Zionism and the future of the State of Israel.”
Also among dignitaries greeting the flight Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Jewish Agency for Israel head Natan Sharansky.
In total there were 37 families on the flight that counted among their numbers five doctors and dentists, two nurses and a pilot. Dozens of the immigrants will go to live in periphery communities in the north and south, Nefesh B’Nefesh said in a statement.
“The fact that so many Jews from the West are joining us of their own free will is the best answer to those who still try to destroy us,” said Sharansky in a statement. “This flight is yet another step in the in-gathering of the exiles, and we look forward to welcoming these new Israelis home.”
Founded in 2002, the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization has worked with the Israeli government to bring some 40,000 North American immigrants to Israel.