by Nefesh B’Nefesh
Two-hundred thirty-four new Israeli immigrants – including a record-breaking 85 young adults who have committed to joining the IDF – were welcomed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday by Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency.
President Shimon Peres warmly greeted the olim as they disembarked from their 12-hour aliya flight from New York, which was sponsored by the Friends of the IDF and the Garin Tzabar program.
Many of the young adults aboard the plane who plan to serve in the IDF are participating in Garin Tzabar, a course that provides a platform for lone soldiers to connect with their peers and serve their country in the most effective way possible.
The soon-to-be IDF soldiers expressed a profound and well-rounded understanding of the journey they had begun. Brook Katz, a 21-year-old graduate of Johns Hopkins University who is participating in Garin Tzabar, told The Jerusalem Post that she had no doubt that the path she chose would be difficult but rewarding.
“People would tell me, ‘Wow, it’s going to be so hard,’ so many times it could have discouraged me, but I don’t think I am naive about the situation,” Katz said on board the chartered flight. “We know this is what we want to do. We know there will be challenges. We will cry, and there will be times when we want to go home – but this is our home now. We’re not going anywhere.”
Shir Hebron, an 18-year-old high school graduate from San Diego, agreed with the assessment her future army-mate presented. “Nobody thinks of this as butterflies, flowers and fluffiness – I mean it’s the army, get real,” she stated. “But I feel like without the challenge, what’s the point?”
Hebron hopes to be enrolled one day at the Technion and plans to study engineering, but feels that serving in the IDF is her duty, and would not pass up the opportunity to become a flight-simulation instructor for the Israel Air Force.
“Even though I was not born in Israel, I am still a Jew. I am not exempt from doing my duty as a Jewish person. It is my turn now to serve my country,” Hebron said to the Post.
Katz shared a similar sentiment: “American Jewry sees itself as an extension of Israel – and I know that Israel would be there for me regardless of whether or not I was born there. I have an obligation to serve our country because, at the end of the day, it is our country.”
While the future soldiers are realistic about the daunting task that lies ahead of them, they are not alone in navigating the course. Along with the assistance that Garin Tzabar provides for the lone soldiers, Nefesh B’Nefesh provides an all-inclusive package for the soldiers who arrive through their organization.
“NBN’s Lone Soldier Aliyah Program is the only program of its kind: We are completely holistic in our approach. We hold their hands during the entire process – pre-, during and post-aliya,” Doreet Freedman, director of development at Nefesh B’Nefesh, told the Post on Tuesday.
“Nefesh B’Nefesh puts a significant financial focus on the Lone Soldier Aliyah Program,” Freedman said, adding that “NBN understands that the Lone Soldier olim are the next generation of Israeli leadership, and what can be more inspirational than partnering in such a significant process? There is no better net return on one’s investment than the sponsorship of an NBN lone soldier.”
Besides Peres, the hundreds of guests and new olim were greeted at the airport by Eli Cohen, the director of immigration and absorption at the Jewish Agency; Daniel J. Katz, president of Friends of Israel Scouts; Nefesh B’Nefesh vice chairman Erez Halfon; and Nefesh B’Nefesh cofounders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart.