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New olim: IDF, here we come!
Some 130 young Jewish men, women from North America to join Israeli army immediately after making aliyah next week. One of them, Ben Yablon, who comes from family of pilots, has always dreamed of serving in IAF. 'My two greatest loves are Israel and flying,' he says
Ben Yablon, 19, of Portland, has been surrounded by aircraft since childhood. His father is a pilot, two of his uncles are pilots, and even his grandmother was a pilot who took a NASA training course and volunteered in an air defense unit. He himself has been practicing since the age of 16 and received an American pilot license a year ago.

 

Now he is spreading his wings towards the destination he has always dreamed of: The Israel Air Force.

 

Yablon is one of 130 young Jewish men and women from North America who will immigrate to Israel next week on a special flight of the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization – which will take them straight to their service in the Israel Defense Forces.

 

Yablon hopes to adjust to Israel easily and pass the screening process for the IAF's pilots' course successfully. He will not be making the journey alone: His girlfriend, Miriam Clayman of Denver, will be joining him. The two met during a previous visit to Israel and have decided to make aliyah together.

 

"I decided I wanted to serve in the best air force in the world with the best pilots," Yablon says. "My dream is to be a combat pilot in the Israel Air Force and defend the State of Israel. My two greatest loves are Israel and flying. It's very important to me to fight for what I believe in.

 

"I have always loved Israel. I feel connected to it. Israel for me is much more than old buildings, beaches and shawarma. It's the idea that Jews have their own homeland and have a home to go back to. I feel sad that Jews could not always immigrate to Israel, but today it's possible and I don't want to miss the opportunity."

 

Yablon was raised in a Zionist home which supported his decision to immigrate to Israel, despite slight hesitations. His father, an electronics engineer, is the chair of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Oregon.

 

The final decision to immigrate to Israel was made after Ben Yablon and Miriam Clayman fell in love during a visit to Israel last year as part of a Bar-Ilan University program. While her partner dreams of the Israel Air Force, Clayman wants to serve in the Intelligence Corps.

 

"It's the best way to serve my country," she says. "I want to defend Israel. My parents are very supportive of me, and they may very well follow in my footsteps in the end."

 

They both hope to serve close to each other in the army. "It will be very hard if we're not together," Yablon says.

 

High demand for combat units

Yablon and Clayman, together with the other 130 young men and women joining them on the flight, are helping set a new record: Some 340 youngsters from North America will be making aliyah this summer to join the IDF.

 

The jumbo jet scheduled to land at Ben-Gurion on Tuesday will carry, among others, Ariel from Illinois who wants to serve in the Egoz Reconnaissance Platoon, Jake from Arizona who dreams of becoming an Israeli paratrooper, Max from California who only wants to serve in the Duvdevan elite unit, Nathan from Rhode Island who wants to serve in the Oketz canine special forces unit, Chelsea from Florida who wants to serve in the Engineering Corps' rescue unit, and Dana from New York who wants to be a paratroopers' guide.

 

The future soldiers – 67 girls and 63 boys arriving on this flight – are immigrating to Israel as part of a joint operation organized by Nefesh B'Nefesh, Garin Tzabar – a program run by the Friends of the Israel Scouts, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), the Jewish Agency and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael - Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF).

 

The majority of young olim have asked to serve in combat units. Among the boys there is high demand this year for voluntary units like Duvdevan, Sayeret Matkal, Golani, the Paratroopers Brigade and the pilots' course. Among the girls, the favored service is in the Oketz Unit, medical assistants' course, as non-commissioned officers and as shooting instructors.

 

Immediately after getting off the plane, the new immigrants will be greeted in a festive reception at Ben-Gurion Airport's Terminal 1, in the presence of many guests, including Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Eli Aflalo, and Major-General Orna Barbivai, head of the IDF Personnel Directorate.

 

"The fact that these young people are leaving their convenient life abroad in order to immigrate to Israel and join the IDF says a lot about our power as a people and about the mutual responsibility, which is the foundation of our lives," says Minister Landver. "All that is left for us is to be proud of them and ensure that they get all the help we can give them."

 

Ofer Petersburg contributed to this report

 

 

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