A total of 127 new Israeli Defense Force soldiers landed at Ben Gurion Airport this morning, and not one of them was born in the Jewish state.
The group of young men and women were émigrés to Israel, individuals born and raised in the Diaspora that have now made aliyah. The flight—arranged by Nefesh B’Nefesh and Friends of the IDF—carried 350 new Israeli citizens from the US and Canada, with more than one-third preparing to don the uniform of the IDF, a record-breaking number.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was waiting as the plane touched down, ready to address the olim chadashim.
"Each of the 350 people who have made aliyah today have decided to link their personal future with the future of the Jewish state and the Jewish people," Netanyahu said. "But you’ve decided to do something else. You’ve decided to defend the Jewish future, and to have the opportunity to do so is a great privilege. It wasn’t accorded to previous generations of Jews."
He added: "In previous times, for almost two millennia, the Jews could not defend themselves. This is the great transformation that occurred in our time — that we can regain our destiny and defend our future — and this is a privilege that you have now decided to practice personally, thereby altering your lives and the Jewish future as well."
Netanyahu told Nefesh B’Nefesh founder Tony Gelbart that he would like to meet with the new IDF soldiers in three years, when their service is completed, to thank them once more.
A majority of the soldiers have reportedly requested placement in combat units, a striking preference for young adults leaving the comforts of home behind.
"Enlisting in the IDF feels like the right thing to do, and I want to be part of something that is bigger than me," Alona Bargi, a 22 year old from San Francisco, told Israel Hayom. "It will also help me to integrate into Israeli society."
Nefesh B’Nefesh and Friends of the IDF have partnered together to assist “lone soldiers,” IDF personnel who come to Israel to serve even though their families do not live in the Jewish state. The groups help bring new émigrés over, provide financial aid, and set the soldiers up in careers after retirement from service. The FIDF also funds 400 flights home each year, so soldiers can visit their families in the Diaspora.
There are currently more than 2,700 lone soldiers serving the IDF, including 900 from North America.
The trip was also arranged with aid from the Ministry of Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel and Tzofim Garin Tzabar.
.ORG-Connection: The FIDF initiates and helps support social, educational, cultural and recreational programs and facilities for the young men and women soldiers of Israel who defend the Jewish homeland. The FIDF also provides support for the families of fallen soldiers. Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.