Another installment in my Good News Friday series.
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.
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.
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.
Happy hiking !
Shabbat shalom to everyone.