December 30, 2009
by SHARI LEIBLER
French Immigrants hold up their Israeli ID cards after receiving Israeli citizenship
at a ceremony held by the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, Tuesday
Photo: Brian Hendler
A festive welcome was given to 210 new olim during a Jewish Agency gathering at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem on Tuesday, immediately after their arrival in the country.
With 74 arriving from France, 65 from South Africa and 60 from the UK, the Jewish Agency ensured that the new immigrants - among the 16,000 people who immigrated this year - enjoyed a seamless transition.
British olah Tamar Lazarus said that aliya was her ultimate ideological goal, nurtured by the Bnei Akiva youth movement, and that she found it to be "a soft landing."
Ofer Dahan, director of the Programs Marketing Division for the Jewish Agency, praised the speed at which the new olim became Israeli citizens . They all received their identity cards within 24 hours of landing.
Dahan explained that with a "welcome from the Jewish Agency you get everything covered - a certificate, health [coverage], banking [set up], cellphones, work proposal" and housing.
Although the experience was "overwhelming," said Lazarus, "spoon-fed [aliya is] 100 percent recommended."
The vibrant room, decorated with blue and white balloons, mirrored the exuberant mood of those attending. With student band Kfar Vradim playing folk music and iconic Israeli songs, such as "Hallelujah," a joyous atmosphere abounded.
During the ceremony, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky spoke of "aliyah by choice" as the preferable attitude that should be adopted by Jews worldwide.
Recalling that "we broke the iron curtain of the Soviet Union," Sharansky proclaimed that it is time to do the same to the "golden curtain" that exists today - a reference to the materialism and wealth which many in the West would have to leave behind when moving to Israel.
For would-be immigrants who fear such a transition, Sharansky assured that having made aliya 23 years ago "from hell to paradise," he feels he is still in paradise.
Despite the assurance, the decision to make aliya is often greeted by uncertainties and anxieties. "Will I be able to make it?" is a question that many new olim ask themselves, said Paula Edelstein, Executive Director of ARZENU.
The inspirational words delivered by Sharansky, who advised the immigrants to "enjoy the excitement," were echoed by Edelstein, who told those at the ceremony that they "can make it," and encouraged them "to make use of all the services."
Branding the new olim "Jewish entrepreneurs," Edelstein referenced to the two courageous spies Caleb and Joshua, urging those listening that it is "our destiny...we can really do this, like them."