Sean Porter (Left), Sean Greenberg (foreground), Brad Goldblatt (right). Fresh off the plane from Johannesburg. The 18-year-olds will live on Kibbutz Yagur in the north of Israel, before joining the IDF.
December 31, 2009 / 14 Tevet 5770
Over 200 new immigrants from South Africa, the United Kingdom, and France were welcomed with music and fanfare at a ceremony sponsored by the Jewish Agency on December 29, 2009, at the Ramada Renaissance in Jerusalem.
"Today we're experiencing 'Aliyah of Choice,' " said Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. "It is difficult to break the 'Golden Curtain' of the good life in America, England, and South Africa, but I am very glad that you – like me before you – have decided that the best place for a Jew to be is in your real home in the State of Israel."
In addition to receiving their identity cards, the new immigrants listened to music performed by the Kfar Veradim band. Other dignitaries in attendance included Eli Cohen, Director-General of the Jewish Agency's Department of Aliyah and Absorption, Alan Hoffmann, the Jewish Agency's Director General of the Education Department, Josh Schwartz, Secretary General of the Jewish Agency, Arie Abir Director of the European region of the Jewish Agency European Region, Paula Edelstein, Chairperson of Aliyah and Absorption Committee of the Jewish Agency, Mario Leib, chairman of Immigrant Associations, Amos Arbel of the Interior Ministry and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver, who sent a welcoming statement in her absence.
These new immigrants experienced “Aliyah on a Red Carpet,” a package recently launched by the Jewish Agency that includes an Aliyah Expo in the country of origin, the Aliyah flight, a welcome ceremony in Jerusalem at which the new immigrants receive their Te’udat Zehut (Israeli ID cards), and a mini-expo at the hotel where new immigrants can sign up for a variety of services, including banks, cell phone companies, medical insurance, and more. The final step “up” the Red Carpet is a bus ride to the new homes of the new immigrants.
Recent immigrants from South Africa, David and Rachel Lipschitz with
daughter, Ashira, at the welcoming ceremony in Jerusalem.
"Here you can do in 24 hours what once took 24 months," said Sharansky, who made Aliyah 23 years ago.
Globally, Aliyah has seen a 17% increase this year as compared to 2008, excluding Ethiopian immigration. The largest growth in percentage of immigrants by geographic area was from Eastern Europe (27%) and from the former Soviet Union (22%), followed by North America (17%). Countries with the largest increases in the number of new immigrants included the UK (with an increase of 34%, to 835 new immigrants), Argentina (51% to 325), Spain (52%, to 38) and Scandinavian countries (104%, to 57 new immigrants).