Good News Friday

Another installment in my Good News Friday series.

Nefesh b'Nefesh flight brings over 100 potential soldiers

Nefesh b’Nefesh flight brings over 100 potential soldiers from America

This week’s most exciting news comes from Nefesh b’Nefesh, who brought a plane-load of 350 American immigrants to Israel.  This is beyond good news – it is excellent!

A special charter flight with 350 new immigrants from North America landed at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Tuesday morning. Among the arrivals were 127 young men and women who plan to enlist in the IDF.


The group is part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh program, a non-profit organization that was founded in 2001 in order to help North American and British Jews make aliyah (immigrate to Israel).

The flight was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemet Le’Israel and Tzofim Garin Tzabar.

More than 4,800 American, Canadian and British Jews have or will be making aliyah this year, which marks Nefesh B’Nefesh’s 10th anniversary.

The Jerusalem Post has more:

After graduating from high school, Oren Stern, a 19-year-old Jewish- American from Philadelphia, faced a dilemma. He wanted to either join the US Army or the Israel Defense Forces, but couldn’t make up his mind.

Stern initially signed a contract with the US Army, but had a change of heart while waiting to be drafted, opting instead for the IDF.

“I didn’t feel they really needed me,” Stern said on Monday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where he was about to board a plane bound for Israel together with 359 olim, including 104 other would-be Israeli soldiers.

“[The US army] has plenty of people, I felt the Israelis needed me more.”


The majority of those at the Nefesh B’Nefesh event had no family ties to Israel.

Arye Mondalk of Vancouver had been to the country twice before deciding to make aliya: once when he was en route to join the March of the Living, an annual ceremony in Poland remembering the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their allies in the Holocaust, and more recently when he completed a sixmonth stint studying Hebrew at Kibbutz Ein Hashofet.

“I believe in Israel,” said Mondalk, who carried a guitar strapped around his back.

“I’m a Zionist through and through.”

Did he feel any ill will toward Palestinians, Arabs or Muslims? “Absolutely not,” Mondalk said. “In general there are extremists on both sides. [I feel ill will] toward extremists, though. Absolutely.”

“I’m there to defend my people, not to attack another,” added Evan Gewiotz, another IDF hopeful standing beside him.

Bruchim haba’im (welcome) to all the new olim, may you have an easy klita (absorption) and a successful and happy new life in Israel. Kol hakavod to Nefesh b’Nefesh, the KKL, Garin Tzabar and the JA for organizing this aliya, and for all the other thousands of immigrants they have helped so far.

Human rights for Palestinians

Human rights for Palestinians (via EoZ)

More good news with an American angle comes via Elder of Ziyon who reports that the city of Sacramento voted to become a sister city of Ashkelon. This is no minor public relations item. It is a major rout for the BDS Israel-haters:

From the Sacramento Bee:

The Sacramento City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to name Ashkelon, Israel, as a sister city.

Most of those in a packed City Council Chambers stood and applauded following the vote. The council vote followed an hour of impassioned – but mostly civil – testimony from supporters and opponents.

It was an unusually tense hearing for a sister city program that, until now, had operated without much controversy.

An overflow crowd of more than 250 people gathered inside the City Council Chambers and in the main foyer of City Hall. Some held Israeli flags; other wore T-shirts reading, “Got human rights? Palestinians don’t.”

Supporters of the plan expressed disappointment that the proposal had resulted in a political debate over Middle Eastern policy. Opponents of the proposal decried city officials for forming a bond with a city in a country they charge violates human rights.

This wasn’t just a loss for the BDS crowd – they were routed.

The Israel Trail

Hiking The Israel Trail

My final item for today comes from National Geographic of all places, which has named the Israel Trail one of the world’s best hikes.

The trail, which extends up to 620 miles from southern to northern Israel, was named one of the 20 top hikes in the Epic Trails section.


The magazine says the Israel National Trail is best for “Long-distance hikers with a love of both ancient and contemporary history.”

“Passing through vast empty desert and winding into kibbutzim, the Israel National Trail (INT) delves into the grand scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of modern Israelis (with opportunities to stop in the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). But beyond the immense sense of history and breaking news, the trail powerfully connects to something that often gets lost in all the headlines — the sublime beauty of the wilderness of the Middle East,” writes the magazine’s Doug Schnitzspahn.

National Geographic’s insider trip to trail travelers reads: “The biggest blessing here comes in the form of ‘trail angels’ along the INT who give a helping hand and often offer a place to stay free of charge to thru-hikers.” It also provides a link to an updated list of trail angels with contact information.

There is an aspect which is not mentioned in the National Geographic – the Israel Trail was the “shadchan” (matchmaker) for our friends’ children, who met while hiking the trail and got married a short while later. 🙂

For more information about the Israel Trail (called Shvil Yisrael in Hebrew) see The Israel Trail or the Israel National Trail. For links in Hebrew try Shvilist or Israshvil.

Happy hiking !

Shabbat shalom to everyone.

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15 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. reality says:

    what al ot of lovely news thank you & shabbat shalom

  2. debizyx says:

    We had one of the young couples who came on Aliya on that particular NBN flight, over for lunch on Shabbat. It was great to meet a young professional couple (just got married 2 months ago) who decided that this is where they want to bring up their children.

    • anneinpt says:

      How wonderful! That must have been a great experience for you and for them. Kol hakavod to you for welcoming new olim so generously.

  3. debizyx says:

    By the way, there was also a Jewish Agency sponsored flight from South Africa and England that landed on the same day with 80 families (but rather less fanfare …), and a flight at the end of July with 320 other new immigrants from Britain, France, South Africa, and South America. The Sochnut sometimes gets forgotten with all the great work that NBN are doing. See pictures here

    • anneinpt says:

      Very interesting. You’re right. The sochnut gets rather sidelined. I remember that NBN used to get very frustrated at the stonewalling and general hindering of their efforts by the Sochnut – and yet NBN started because the Sochnut wasn’t paying enough attention to Western aliya. It’s so silly really. They’re all on the same side. Typical Jewish life – 2 Jews, 3 opinions…

  4. Aridog says:

    Sort of OT, but a question….

    In the photo of the hikers on an Israeli trail, they all seem to be wearing short pants. Why? Israel has eradicated ticks perhaps? Nah, just a futile attempt to stay cool, when evaporative outerwear would do so much better, as well as protect from ticks in high grass.

    I’ve dug enough ticks out of my hide to know when not to wear shorts. Beach, shorts are fine. Around town, shorts are fine if your legs are not appalling. In the bush or the forest, shorts are just silly. I am speaking as a guy who practically invented “Jhorts” by cutting off Levi’s when worn at the knee, way back in the 1950’s. I like my droopy Levi shorts, but not in the bush or woods.

    I know, it’s just me :-O

    • anneinpt says:

      Interesting point Aridog. I’ve never heard of ticks in Israel – perhaps they don’t exist here? What we do have are snakes and scorpions. Usually, hikers are told to wear long trousers and closed shoes to avoid being bitten or stung. But hikers in shorts are a very common scene here, especially if it’s not snake season.

      In the picture, the hikers are walking a well-trodden and marked trail in grass. Snakes tend to hide under rocks and in the sand, though I admit you have a valid point.

      And you painted a very pretty picture of yourself in droopy shorts. 😀

      • Aridog says:

        Oh, you have ticks, but it seems like their populations vary widely with seasonal changes and IIRC a hot dry average annual season produces more than a wet season. I might have it backwards, but I don’t think so. Seems that way here for deer and dog ticks, anyway. Brown dog ticks are what you’d have and are vectors for Mediterranean Spotted Fever. Dog ticks (aka wood ticks) and deer ticks tend to rest on the tip tops of bladed grasses waiting for a target animal to pass by for attachment. Nice tender human backside is ideal for them. In other words, socks & relatively short boots are no protection. There’s a reason why most military fatigue uniforms have trouser blousing ties at the leg ends. No one but the crazy Brits run around in short fatigue uniforms as far as I know.

        I could go on about why you wear full cover clothing in the boonies, trees or grasses, but it’s tedious. Think poison ivy, poison oak, snakes, scorpions, spiders, etc…beyond the simple fact that a covering of cloth absorbs sweat moisture and cools you as it evaporates. Except in Monsoons….. 😦

        • anneinpt says:

          a hot dry average annual season produces more than a wet season

          I wish. Our wet season is short and usually not terribly wet, though this past year was an exception. And our dry season is dry. And hot. And long. I’m melting here.

          I googled “are there ticks in Israel?” and got a bunch of links about the clock ticking on Iran. LOL! You are right though, there are indeed ticks here. I don’t know why there’s so little awareness about them.

          • Aridog says:

            As I suspected, I think I got the season part bass awkwards. A trip advisory for diseases mentions tick prevalence in warm to hot moist spring and fall seasons …both for Israel and the US of A. The bad summer I experienced right here in the city was a hot one, but preceded by a long damp spring.

            Anyway … shorts if fur swimmin’ anyway. 🙂 …of course, we then have the tick’s cousins, the tiny chiggars to fret about 😀

            I still use 95% to 100% DEET bug juice just like jungle juice 40+ years ago, rubbed on skin, in hair, and all clothing when in wilderness areas or otherwise buggy environs.

            You mentioned snakes …does Israel have any “Hognose” snakes? They’re kid of cool, non-venomous, but rear up like a cobra, flattened neck and all, when alarmed. If you clap your hands loud and hard, they’ll usually fall over and play dead. Look away from them (they watch your eyes) for a bit and they resurrect just fine. Great fun stunt on newbies in the woods who think they’re facing a cobra….then watch it keel over as if dead when you clap.

            Yeah, I know…gotta find better hobbies, eh.

            • anneinpt says:

              hot moist spring and fall seasons

              Not here they’re not. The spring is warm and pleasant. A few sprinkles of rain but by April-May the rain is finished till around November. The fall is hot and dry usually. In fact there isn’t really a spring or a fall. They last about 2 hours, on a Wednesday afternoon at teatime (to paraphrase Monty Python) and if you blink you missed them.

              As for snakes, to be honest I haven’t gotten up close and personal to any. I know we have pythons here, and a few other poisonous snakes, but I hope never to get close enough to one to ask for its ID. Certainly not to see if it can play-act playing dead! 😀

              Now mosquitoes – plenty of those, I can assure you!

              • Aridog says:

                mosquitoes …

                ‘Nuther superb reason to well long pants, and long sleeves too if in the midst of a “hatch” …along with the cooling aspect of moisture evaporation over skin. There IS a reason Native Americans covered up, same as Bedouins, eh. The half nekid “Indians” here were mostly in Hollywood movies.

            • cba says:

              I learn so much from the time I waste on blogs 🙂

  5. Aridog says:

    On Topic …one small issue with the text quoted for Oren Stern where he says he’d signed up and was waiting to be “drafted” …the “draft” in the US Military ended long long ago, in 1973, and yes, in those days, you could volunteer for the draft, … otherwise you enlisted for 3 or more years instead of the 2 year “draft.” It’s likely he meant he signed a document of intent subject to availability of his preference of schools or training, and was waiting for that availability to open up before formally enlisting. Full term is now 8 years, with most services using 4 years active, 4 reserve, IIRC. Otherwise, if he formally enlisted, he’d be classified as a deserter.

    I respect his choice to join the IDF and I hope he does so successfully,perhaps as a career. As most who know me know, beyond our US services, I repect most the IDF and the Korean ROK services. The IDF and the ROK are very different in many ways, and very similar in other ways.

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