JERUSALEM, Israel – Wednesday afternoon brought the summer's largest aliyah from France as more than 200 French Jews disembarked at Ben Gurion Airport.
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver were on hand to welcome the nation's newest citizens, who were greeted with Israeli singing and dancing.
"It's good you're home," Landver told them. "We are standing side by side with you and you will very quickly feel that you didn't make an effort for nothing. You will feel that Israel is your home."
Sharansky said Israel would do everything possible to help the new arrivals "feel at home from the moment they first set foot on our homeland's soil." He said the decision reflects their desire to play an active role in Jewish history.
"Many have questioned whether Jews have a future in France, but there is no question that French Jewry has a future in Israel," Sharansky said. “You could have chosen to go many other places, but you chose to come here. Each of you has taken a tremendous step for your children’s future and for the future of Israel. Welcome home!”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking by videoconferencing, said the decision to make Israel their home has national significance.
"This is not just a big personal journey; it's not just of personal importance, but [it's] also of national importance," Netanyahu said.
Just a day earlier, Israeli soldiers, family members and friends welcomed 211 new immigrants from North America.
Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and director of Nefesh b'Nefesh (soul by soul), said many of the new arrivals planned to take up residence in the north, while others were moving down south.
Fass said the thousands of Jews immigrating to Israel this year are an inspiration to everyone.