On the Wings of Eagles


elalBy Avi Meir Hoffman

I personally witnessed them. They were two men sitting in the first class section of an El Al flight headed toward Israel. Between the two of them they were holding on to some very small items with an illegal street value of well over one million American dollars.

They were both busy. And working through the night. Everyone else on the flight seemed to be sleeping.

Not them.

They were using computers – each of them with a powerful late model notebook. It seems that they were cataloguing. The items were not theirs and I had never seen so many of these items in one spot.

They were doing something unique. Something that no one else had ever done before, it seems. This required another, more careful, look.

One of the items belonged to a young lady who had just graduated SKA or HALB High School for girls in the Five Towns. Another belonged to Jasmine, a woman from Great Neck, Long Island who originally hailed from Hamburg, Germany. Another was the property of a woman from West Hempstead, Sandra Sokol, who had sent and educated all her children in the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County.

The items were American passports and there was nothing untoward about what these two men were doing. They were taught how to process these passports by the government of the State of Israel. Everyone on board the flight was making Aliyah – and these two men – who work for Nefesh B’Nefesh, were processing their passports. The passports were handed to them at the beginning of the flight – by the time we got over England they were done. They were examined for forgeries, computer examined, labeled, stamped, and processed.

Every country in the world, including Israel, has something called “Passport Control.” And as anyone who has ever exited or entered a foreign country – Passport Control can be a major “pain in the neck.” Which is what Nefesh B’Nefesh is all about.

They exist to make Aliyah to Israel easier. Much easier.

They succeed in removing the impediments – easing any “pain in the neck” associated with Aliyah to Israel. From processing all the paperwork in revolutionary new ways, to providing certain types of grants, airplane fare, transportation and housing and job assistance – Nefesh B’Nefesh does it all to make Aliyah an easier decision.

The upshot? It works.

This past El Al flight on August 18th was Nefesh B’Nefesh’s last charter flight of the summer. It carried 239 Olim – 103 of them were children. This summer alone Nefesh B’Nefesh assisted in the Aliyah of over 3000 Jews to Israel. In the past nine years NBN was responsible for assisting over 25,000 people in making Aliyah.

At the arrival ceremony with thousands of people present, Knesset Members, business leaders and family members – Knesset Member Silvan Shalom voiced what everyone else was thinking, “NBN founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gilbert deserve the Israel Prize – Israel’s highest award.”

Both founders were on the flight. Rabbi Fass could easily have been confused with one of the new Olim. I saw him schlepping a baby in a car seat down the aisle of the airplane. He appeared as the consummate new Oleh – with bags, baby and car seat in tow. I asked him if the baby was his. His negative answer confirmed my thoughts: “Here was a CEO who has no qualms of picking up the broom and mop himself to ensure that everything goes well.”

The flight had 4 dogs (one named Gandolph), 1 cat, and 58 single adults. A previous charter flight had a ferret that got loose, to the chagrin of the El Al team. But they did take it in stride.

NBN is innovative. Not a week or month goes by where some improvement isn’t thought of, discussed, and or implemented. New programs to populate the Galil, the North or even the Negev are constantly being developed. Nefesh B’Nefesh is a team player that works with the the Jewish Agency, El Al, and the Knesset. Together, they make a well-oiled machine.

It was a flight laden with emotion too. The TSA booth at the bottom floor of the terminal broke out in song. “Veshavu banim, veshavu banim, veshavu banim ligvulam.. And the sons shall return to their borders – home.” The song was heard again a few minutes before landing too.

Raz Goldman, an El Al Stewart, is on board for every Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight. “I made Aliyah years ago – and it was not as easy as it is now. I am the only American El Al stewart in the entire fleet. I love the Nefesh B’Nefesh flights. I identify closely with each and every Oleh on this flight.”

New Olim came from across the spectrum and from so many of our local schools too. There was the sole Jewish resident of a small town of 100 people just outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming. And there were former students of HALB, TAG, HANC, and Bruria too.

Upon arrival the new Olim were greeted by soldiers, fellow citizens, CNN television crews and a remarkable reception. One 82 year old woman, the oldest person on the flight said, with tears in her eyes, “I left the gates of Auschwitz and went to America to survive. Now, finally, I am home.”

Nefesh B’Nefesh can be contacted at www.nbn.org.il.



  1. A note to all that are contemplating to make Aliyah: The kids-at-risk among Americans that make Aliyah are substantially higher than the rest of the Israeli population. Speak to a Rav that has a broad horizon before you decide to make Aliyah!
    It may sound good superficially “to live in the holy land” but there are great risks associated with it.

  2. I want to know what the percentage of these people return to their countries of origing and how many are truly happy living in Israel?
    Lets call a spade a spade, Alyiah to Israel is not easy for many many reasons.

  3. Most poskim maintain that there is no mitzva chiyuvis to live in the land, some hold there is no mitzva at all. Everyone agrees that if it will cause a yerida ruchnis for you or your family it’s better to stay put until moshiach comes and take us to our land al canfei nesharim.

  4. “The flight had 4 dogs (one named Gandolph), 1 cat, and 58 single adults.”

    Ouch. That could have been phrased better, no?

  5. As some posters have said making aliya is not for everybody and deserves consideration about family, parnassah, etc.

    However, If you think after consideration that it is for you – you have a rich wonderful, spiritual and meaningful life waiting for you here. I came 10 years ago from the states and have never looked back (and my kids who are less materialistic and would never consider yerida thank us for it). Behatzlacha!

  6. Please don’t throw in a damper into the efforts of those who are the Nachshonim of our generation and come to Eretz Yisrael, which is a mitzvah according to Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (although not mitzvah chiyuvis). It goes without saying that one can’t really fulfill the Torah in the true sense without living in Eretz Yisrael. And my heart goes out to those whose personal circumstances (chinuch, job situation, etc.) prevent them from coming home to Eretz Yisrael.

    According to NBN, only a small percentage of the olim return to the United States. If olim know what to expect before their aliyah, they’ll be”H be succesful (without dropouts).

  7. There might not be a mitzva chiyuvis.. but it’s for sure a mitzva that CAN be done if someone really wants to.. it’s not easy but it’s worth it..

    It’s not a mitzva chiyuvis for sooo many chumras yet people don’t question it. yet , when it comes to this.. it’s something that ppl shy away from..
    My kids’ science book is more like a sefer than a science book with references to chumash, tehillim , gemeras etc etc.. something that you can’t find in the US..

    There is no doubt that ruchniyus is WAY better here than in the US.

    The Chazon Ish stated that a person should always aspire to live in EY .. and if they can’t , they should come periodically so that they should know that this is where they belong and not in chutz laaretz.
    Take a look at the book :To Dwell in the Palace..

    P.s. There is a lot of Guidance here for those who bring older kids. It is a bit scary but can be done.

  8. Our family has been consulting with a Gadol (widely accepted in the Yeshivish world) on this matter. One is typically not allowed to go with a family without Parnassa. If you can have parnassa there it is not so simple just to stay put. My observation living in the US is that Jews have become super comfortable in their host countries, and it is hard to give up materialism and especially family. Chinuch in EY is not so easy for Americans to acclimate to . That is why each family needs to consult their Rav. Simply stating that it can be overlooked is wrong. It is a mitzva and Rabbonim and Jews have died trying to just get there and fulfill the mitzvah of living in EY. At least yearn for it.

  9. Rabbi Fass, his wife and sisters were the leaders of different groups of counselors at Camp HASC when they were 18, 19, 20, + years old. I was always amazed at their dedication to the special children and even to the parents and siblings of the special children. Moshe Kahn frequently used them as the ultimate counselors. When I’m in a quandry I frequently try to imagine how Josh would act.
    They deserve respect for what they did in their youth and for what they have undertaken as their life’s work.

  10. This article is not about the merits or risks of making aliyah. It’s about an organization that makes it easier for those who already want to go, whose employees put their heart and soul into it. Thus there’s no need for the knee-jerk responses that it’s not a chiyuv or that your kids are at risk so ask a rav first, etc.

  11. The stats according to the delouche report (2009) is that almost 2% of NBN Olim revert back to the United States. So, it is a risk – no question..

  12. To #3 Eretz Yisrael niknes beyesurim. It is a fair hypothesis that off the derech kids are the product of poor or lets say imperfect parenting, and trauma sourced in the batch process education system. It is true that we have people and institution problems here, but if you don’t, than by all means, it is better Jewish life. It is an opportunity that countless generations could only dream of and they would have given anything for the access we have today. There were generations that live here against horrific odds. I would imagine that you have better kavana than I in Musaf for Yom Tov, but I have better kavana in Birchat Hamazon, and several brachot of the 19. Unless you are numb or resisting, there is no way not to keenly feel that here we live under the Hashgacha. bad boy NBN 05

  13. 14,000 olim come each month and 12,000 leave according to what I read. If you’re going to make aliyah, do it yourself. Aliyah b’choma is an issur d’oraiso. See Masechese Kesuvos and sefer Vayel Moshe.

  14. There’s a story about a girl who was the “catch.” Some rich snobby boy wanted to date her, she didn’t want to insult all the people asking her to meet him or say no to a date without meeting him, as it seemed too mean. So she agreed to the date. She wore her shabbiest dress, didn’t comb her hair, and didn’t put on makeup. When she met him, she was polite but not enthusiastic. The boy walked away and said, “She’s so beautiful? Ha. She’s such an amazing girl? I’m not even interested in a second date.” The foolish, unworthy young man thought he was rejecting the young woman, never realizing that it was exactly the opposite – because he was unworthy, the young lady appeared at her worst and seemed undesirable.
    You fools who see all the “problems” of the Land – it is she who has rejected you, as you are unworthy of her greatness, but you think you are rejecting her.
    That said, we came here with NBN’s support, it helped a lot, and we came when our kids were young, as yes, it is a problem to bring teens here and expect them to adjust easily (though some might). So come while you are young, and try to make it work! If you have to go back, at least you will have tried. The person who said 2% of NBN people return to America – so what? 98% stay? I’d love a divorce rate int he frum community that looked like that!