(IsraelNN.com) A jumbo El Al airliner touched down at Ben Gurion International airport early Wednesday morning with 366 Jews aboard who all packed their belongings, kissed North America goodbye, and now continue their lives as residents of the Jewish State.
The planeload of North Americans was preceded by 23,000 others in the past seven years who made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) through the Nefesh B'Nefesh (NBN) organization, a group dedicated to revitalizing Jewish immigration to Israel en masse from North America and the UK.
The charter flight follows a group aliyah flght (a block of reserved seats in a regular commercial El Al flight) that departed from Canada Monday carrying 48 olim (new immigrants) to Israel. Another group flight will depart later Wednesday from Newark airport, capping off forty-eight hours in which 455 Western new immigrants will be making aliyah through Nefesh B'Nefesh.
The newcomers are among more than 3,000 Western immigrants moving to Israel on 16 flights this summer as part of an ongoing "aliyah revolution" launched by the NBN organization in 2002.
Forty-six people from Wednesday's flight will be moving to Israel's northern region as part of NBN's "Go North" program, a historic initiative which encourages Western olim to settle in northern Israel, by providing enhanced financial, employment and social support. "Go North" aims to bring over 1,000 immigrants to Israel's morth over the next few years and will have assisted 32 families by the end of this summer.
Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edestein told the olim at the welcome reception that he toured towns in the north on Tuesday and heard from local residents of the dire need to bring more Jews to populate the region, which has a large Arab presence. Edelstein opened his remarks saying that it is a sad day for him as Minister of Diaspora Affairs as he now has 366 less people for whom he is responsible in his government portfolio. "But as a Jew and a Zionist, it is a very happy day," he said.
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