Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan, who made aliyah at the age of 15 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, said this about future lone soldiers: “The establishment and the existence of Israel is the most important event in Jewish history in 2,000 years, and it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to participate in that and defend the Jewish people, and they really are my heroes.”

The heroes he was referring to are a group of North American teenagers who left to start their lives as new immigrants and new soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces.

Dayan added that he never misses the chance to come to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport and bid farewell to groups before they depart on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight to Israel.

Dayan also told JNS that the olim “made the best decision possible” by moving to the Jewish state. He said, “Imagine for instance if in Hollywood they have would asked Gal Gadot, ‘Do you prefer to be the star of Wonder Woman or see the film from the audience?’ [These olim] decided to be the stars of the history of the Jewish people, and I admire them for that. They will not regret their decision.”

Israel’s Consul General in New York Dani Dayan posing with soon-to-be new immigrants to Israel before they board Nefesh B’Nefesh’s aliyah charter flight on Aug. 14. Credit: Shahar Azran.

He also shared a special message to the future lone soldiers and their parents. He told them, “You should be extremely proud of your decision to join the IDF, as should be your parents because there is no greater evidence, dad and mom, that you educated them the right way in their decision—even if you’re not 100 percent happy with it—to make aliyah and join the Israeli army.”

A special welcome ceremony was held for the new olim at Ben-Gurion International Airport upon the flight’s arrival; it included more than 1,000 guests holding welcome banners, in addition to friends, family members and Israeli dignitaries. Joining them was Mindy Klein, the wife of New York Yankees president Randy Klein. While on the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight (though not making aliyah), she and the Kleins hosted the soon-to-be lone soldiers at Yankee Stadium a few days earlier.

Mindy Klein said the teen olim who have fears about starting this new chapter in their lives need not worry. The camaraderie they will form with fellow lone soldiers will help them, she said, and they’ll soon see they have less to fear because many people “will have their backs.”

She also offered some words of advice to the teen olim: “Open your heart, open your mind. Learn as much as you can. Be a sponge. Absorb everything you can.”

“Every day should be a new learning experience,” she said. “Take it all in, and then later, once you’re all settled, you’ll be able to look back at this and say that you got even more out of it because you were that sponge. From the moment you touch the ground … every day is a momentous day here—from now until the rest of your life.”