As Israel marked the national holiday of Yom Ha’Aliyah (a day celebrating immigration to the Jewish state) on Oct. 16, a diverse group of 33 Americans immigrated to Israel before the weekend on a Nefesh B’Nefesh group aliyah flight in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL) and Jewish National Fund-USA.

The flight landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport with new immigrants coming from nine U.S. states and all walks of life, ranging from young students to retirees.

The new immigrants, or olim, will reside in communities throughout Israel. They work in professions such as biotech, engineering, education, media, business and psychology. The group also includes individuals who have already made significant contributions to Israel, including a man who helped establish a microelectronics laboratory for the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

Cookie Schaffel from Illinois is greeted by family at Ben-Gurion International Airport after arriving in Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh group aliyah flight, October 2018. Credit: Jonny Finkel Photography.

Yom Ha’Aliyah began as a community movement in 2012. In 2016, the Knesset, in a rare moment of cooperation across political parties in the Israeli parliament, turned the initiative into law by officially adding it to the national calendar.

“Yom Ha’Aliyah is an important and inspiring opportunity to appreciate how olim have shaped Israel’s culture, economy and national character, and remind us all to appreciate the miraculous times we live in,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-Founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “Our latest group of olim will no doubt have a transformative impact on Israeli society through community-building, innovation, and so many other outstanding and diverse contributions.”

Nefesh B’Nefesh is responsible for facilitating the aliyah of more than 57,000 Jews from North America and the United Kingdom since 2002.