TEL AVIV, Israel – Last month CBN brought you the story of French Jews who left the growing anti-Semitism in France to make Israel their home.
This week, more immigrants arrived in Tel Aviv, this time from the US and Canada. The trip was conducted under the banner of Nefesh B'Nefesh (Soul to Soul) and the Jewish National Fund and sponsored by Heidi Rothberg of Denver.
Their smiles say it all, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
239 passengers from 24 states and three Canadian provinces filled the El Al flight from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, and nearly a quarter of them were lone soldiers: young people who will soon join the Israeli military.
The Lefkowitz family, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
They were welcomed by hundreds of well-wishers, including Israeli soldiers, eight Knesset members and many North Americans who had previously made Aliyah.
One of the new arrivals, Yaakov Cahn from Monsey, New York, is just out of high school. He'll be stationed in the south, near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip.
"I'm not scared. There's no reason to be scared, you know. Gotta do what you have to do," he said.
And what does his family in New York think?
"They're very proud of me," he said. "I hope they follow in my footsteps, you know, and do what I do."
Friends, family and well wishers waiting to welcome 239 new citizens from the US and Canada, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren was at the airport to greet the new arrivals.
"Mazel tov! I don't know if you know it or not, but you just entered Jewish history," he told them.
Oren, who serves as deputy minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, was an immigrant from the US himself almost 40 years ago. He says most Americans come for different reasons than the French immigrants who came last month from a place where anti-Semitism is rampant.
"This is a very different Aliyah," Oren told CBN News. "People who come from North America, they're not fleeing anti-Semitism. They're not here because of economic strife, right? They've made a decision to move from probably a better economy to our economy, to certainly maybe a more secure environment than our environment, to serve in the army. It's a very profound, weighty decision if you think about it."
Zelda Wildman from Ohio came holding a card from her father. It was issued by the British government in the Palestine Mandate denying him the right to come to Israel before it became a modern nation in1948.
Danny and Zelda Wildman, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
"I feel like I'm fulfilling his dream," she said. "We lost, he lost, all of our family in the Holocaust. He came to Ohio because that's where he was sent. He always wanted to go to "Palestine." Zelda and her husband, Danny, were greeted by a number of family members, including 13 grandchildren who already live in Israel.
Jeff Dahal brought his family from Connecticut. His wife, Dorit, took care of the kids for several months while Jeff took up a new job in Israel.
"It was difficult to be separated," she said. "It was difficult for the kids, but we made it!"
Their son, Tal, summed it up for the family.
"It's just been really hard and stressful for when we had to like get everything set up. But now once we're here, it's a lot easier and it's very worth it because like, this has been a dream for us and we're like, living the dream," he said.
We asked Yaakov Cahn if he is fulfilling the words spoken by the biblical prophets concerning the gathering of the Jewish people from the four corners of the earth.
"I think it's pretty obvious that we are because we're returning, you know," he said.