Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Despite Everything – They Still Come

Almost one year to the day after the outbreak of last summer's Lebanon II war, 220 new Olim arrived Tuesday, July 10, aboard an El Al flight from New York. Participants in the highly successful Nefesh B'Nefesh program, this event was featured on Israel television and included interviews with several new arrivals who said that despite leaving relative comforts and familiar surroundings in America, they were happy to have the privilege to join their Israeli brethren in their Jewish homeland.

Why has Nefesh B'Nefesh been so successful, with yearly increases in Aliyah from North America, the U.K., and France? The answer is that a more intense effort is now being made to ensure that these new citizens have a better chance to make it in a country where immigrants from western countries often become discouraged and go back to their former places of residence. These efforts include more assistance in finding them suitable employment by more intense screening to make sure that the potential Oleh's education and work experience better match available employment opportunities, particularly in technology based industries. Finding suitable housing and educational facilities for school aged children are also important aspects; and many Olim not only already know which city and neighborhood they want to live in, but have already checked into available housing in these locations.

These factors, plus special loans and grants given to new Olim, help them to become settled easier. It's still difficult to adjust to living in Israel, as many long time Anglo 'vatikim' attest to. Israel is located in the Middle East, with all its implications; and Israel society does take a bit of getting used to, especially behavior patterns and the way people drive on the country's motorways.

Still, it's wonderful that more than 10,000 new Olim have arrived via Nefesh B'Nefesh since it's founding; and one flight actually arrived last year during the midst of the war. It would be nice if more attention is given to a potential Aliyah source that has already become an important part of Israel's population mix, with a highly educated and talented labor pool that can be drawn on, especially in the professions and high tech fields.

It is true that the majority of these new arrivals come from religious or traditional Jewish backgrounds. But this may contribute to their ability to withstand the adversities and challenges of living in a country that is constantly under threat of war and even annihilation.

Nefesh B'Nefesh – Souls reaching Souls. May it continue to go from strength to strength!

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