Aliyah Program Takes Off With First Group Flights Direct From L.A.
On July 26, for the first time ever, an official from Israel’s Ministry of Interior was on hand at the El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles International Airport to naturalize 62 Southern California Jews as Israelis and three more as permanent residents.
Carrying a computer tablet installed with official government paperwork, she went down the line designated for the families and singles making aliyah— the ascent to Israel — to get their electronic John Hancocks. Within 24 hours of their arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport, the paperwork would be processed and their new Israeli identification cards would be ready.
These new arrivals get their Israeli documents at a festive reception at the Jerusalem headquarters of Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase immigration among Jews from Western countries by removing logistical, financial and professional obstacles that might prevent them from moving to Israel. At NBN, the new Israelis are greeted by a host of counselors and vendors who will guide them through the more mundane aspects of realizing the Zionist dream: opening a bank account, acquiring health insurance, registering for ulpan (Hebrew language school free for new olim), and getting a phone.
Group and charter flights for olim previously departed from New York, Toronto and the United Kingdom. This first direct group journey from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, organized by NBN with the cooperation of the Jewish Agency for Israel, made the trip more convenient for Angelenos and also created a sense of community among the group members.