- A special El Al flight brought 329 new immigrants from
the U.S. and Canada to Israel yesterday. The El Al 747 jet that touched
down at about 10:30 A.M. brought the single largest North American immigrant
group to arrive in at least 25 years.
- The group of new Israelis includes 103 families, mostly
young ones, and there are a total of 150 children.
- The new immigrants have come to Israel as part of a special
program sponsored by Nefesh B'Nefesh, the International Fellowship of Christians
and Jews, the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Absorption.
- Those who arrived yesterday are part of a larger group
of 531 Jewish immigrants who are coming to Israel as part of this program,
and who are to be absorbed mainly in Beit Shemesh, Ra'anana and Jerusalem.
- This was the first planeload sponsored by Nefesh B'Nefesh,
an organization whose mission is to remove financial and logistical obstacles
to North American immigration.
- Nefesh B'Nefesh provides each immigrant with a loan ranging
from $5,000-25,000, which becomes a grant once the recipient has been in
Israel for at least three years.
- Rabbi Joshua Fass, cofounder of Nefesh B'Nefesh, was
one of the passengers on yesterday's flight.
- Immigrants who arrived yesterday work as teachers, pharmacists,
high-tech specialists, lawyers and doctors. Many have already arranged
places of work in the country, with the help of Nefesh B'Nefesh; others
will be given counseling about work opportunities in days ahead.
- Nefesh B'Nefesh President Tony Gilbert yesterday said
hundreds of young Jewish families in North America are interested in making
aliyah to Israel, but economic concerns are the main deterrent. "These
young people still have student loans to pay back. Mortgages weigh them
down and by the time families have stabilized economically, they have also
found their places socially and professionally where they live, and so
aliyah loses its relevance for them." Due to such considerations,
Gilbert said, financial grants have been arranged on a scale suited to
the changing needs of the immigrants. Funding for the grants comes mainly
from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, whose founder
is Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. The fellowship has allocated $2 million for
the immigrants who arrived yesterday.
- Some of the immigrants said the events of September 11
influenced their decisions to create lives for themselves in Israel. One
said he immigrated partly in response to the murder of a relative in a
terror attack at Kfar Sava.
- Rabbi Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship,
immigrated to Israel a year ago, and yesterday accompanied the newcomers
on their flight.
- The group's arrival brought the number of North American
immigrants this year up to 1,000, signifying an increase of 439 over last