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An Emotional Homecoming
Welcome Home
by Judy Lash Balint Cafe Oleh page
July 14, 2005

If you ever want to experience the full range of emotions in all their intensity in a short period of time, just show up to greet a couple of planeloads of new immigrants from North America as they arrive at Ben Gurion airport. Yesterday, the largest number of olim (immigrants) ever to arrive in one day from N. America landed to begin their new lives.

There's overwhelming joy, both on the part of those arriving as well as the relatives and friends and even from the platoon of Israeli soldiers who stand on the tarmac to greet the new arrivals. There's sadness too--many of the immigrants have left behind parents, grown children and close friends and find themselves overwhelmed with the implications of their decision to move away. There's regret, on the part of many older immigrants who wish they would have made the move earlier. There's love---several of the younger olim have been drawn back to the country to marry the Israeli partners they met on previous trips here. There's compassion--every Nefesh B'Nefesh worker and even Interior Ministry officials deal with these immigrants compassionately as they wend their way through the obligatory bureaucracy. There's cynicism--several immigrants who showed up wearing orange shirts signifying opposition to the Gush Katif retreat program were asked to don Nefesh B'Nefesh T shirts in order not to politicize the homecoming. And, yes, there's also jealousy--on the part of many N. American olim who arrived in the years before Nefesh B'Nefesh and had to go it alone through the difficult process of absorption and acculturation into Israeli society. Yes, we made it even without those nice Nefesh B'Nefesh financial incentives....

But we're all delighted to welcome the 520 people who arrived yesterday, and the other 1200 N. Americans who will come on an additional five flights over the next month. Their presence will strengthen Israel and inspire others to think about joining the greatest Jewish enterprise of our times---and who knows, one day we may even be able to equal the numbers of Russian speaking olim who have changed the face of Israel in the arts, sports and science. Meanwhile, we can dream about the reforms in democracy, customer service, healthy capitalism and manners that await us when we'll have more than a million olim from western countries.