Hundreds of Jews from North America are immigrating to Israel this summer, arriving on special charter flights. They are getting a warm welcome.
A group of 238 Jews from the United States and Canada left the comforts of home for a new life in the State of Israel.
Nissan Gertz brought his family from New Jersey, saying he has returned home.
"Indescribable, unbelievable, everyone should experience this feeling once in a lifetime," Gertz said.
And his daughter Gilan.
"I've been thinking about it and planning and planning. I got on the plane an American, and I got off the plane an Israeli," she said.
While about a million Jews have immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union, only a few have been willing to leave behind the affluence of America and Europe. But an organization called Nefesh to Nefesh or Soul to Soul is trying to change that. The organization, which is funded by Jews and Evangelical Christians, plans to bring nearly 4,000 Jews from the U.S., Canada and Britain by the end of the year.
In this group, some 55 young men and women will soon be serving in the Israeli army.
Jeremy Davis came from Cleveland, Ohio.
"I'm very excited to join the army and serve my country here in Israel," Davis said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on hand to welcome the newcomers.
"Our whole history in the last 2,000 years has been to come back to this land, reestablish our independent state, and our ability to control our fate and our destiny. And that involves the ingathering of the exiles," he said.
"Ingathering of the exiles" refers to the vision of the biblical prophets, who said the Jews would return to the Promised Land of Israel after a long exile among the nations.
Israel also sees "aliyah" or immigration as a way to counter the demographic threat posed by a higher birthrate among Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Netanyahu noted that for the first time in 2,000 years, there will soon be more Jews in Israel than in the Diaspora.