They made Aliyah alone and will integrate into dozens of organizations and institutions, including hospitals, the education system, youth villages, Magen David Adom, and more. The vast majority choose to stay in Israel after their year of service – some will even encourage their families to come, as well.
Meet the young women who chose to leave their homes and families and move to Israel to become National Service volunteers as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh “Ori” program.
Last week, we accompanied Navah Frieberg, Dahlia Apfelbaum, and Hadassah Roth – three young new immigrants who arrived in Israel and will become National Service volunteers, beginning September 1. We followed them during their preparations for their Aliyah, at JFK airport, and throughout the exciting flight that was organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh and in cooperation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA.
The first Aliyah flight post-coronavirus
Twenty years have passed since the first Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah charter flight landed in Israel, and these flights have since become a regular occurrence. Twice a year, hundreds of Zionist Jews from North America make Aliyah to Israel Nefesh B’Nefesh charter and group flights, leaving everything behind to come settle in Israel.
The Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah charter flight this summer was particularly exciting. The outbreak of the coronavirus halted the Aliyah charter flights for two and a half years. The flight that landed in Israel last week, August 17, made history as it brought Nefesh B’Nefesh’s 75,000th Oleh to Israel.
Also on the flight were representatives of the Population and Immigration Authority and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, who accompanied the eager passengers. The Olim on the flight included doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, National Service volunteers, and lone soldiers, all imbued with a deep love for Israel. The overall success rate of the integration of Nefesh B’Nefesh Olim is particularly high, with a retention rate of 90%.
“The ‘Ori’ program, in particular, was established to support National Service volunteers. The program was named after Ori Ansbacher, who was murdered in 2019 during her National Service. The program services approximately 200 young women every year from around the world, assisting them with every aspect of their integration, bureaucratically and socially,” said director of the Ori program Karen Richman.
Richman immigrated to Israel as a single National Service volunteer 40 years ago and is very familiar with the challenges of making Aliyah. “The goal of the program is to help young women integrate into Israel society. We work closely with Reuven Pinsky, Director General of the National Civic Service Authority, as well as with coordinators from various nonprofit organizations. The women in this program are greatly motivated to be a part of Israeli society and contribute to the country.”
“Israel is where I should be.”
Navah Frieberg, 19, from Miami, Florida, made Aliyah to volunteer for the Yad Rachel program, which aids at-risk families and children. Her love story with Israel, she explained, began at the age of six. “Thoughts about Aliyah already started even then. I didn’t really know why. Last year I did a gap year in Israel to explore it more in-depth. The more time I spent in Israel and thought about it, the more it became clear to me that Israel is where I should be. I know that you can be part of the Jewish community from anywhere in the world, and wherever you are you are Jewish. But it is not the same as in Israel.”
Dahlia Apfelbaum, 19, from Riverdale, New York, who also was aboard the Aliyah flight last week, will volunteer at Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem. “Last year I lived in Israel,” she said. “I volunteered at Shaare Zedek Hospital. I saw how hard the National Service women worked there, and I wanted to be a part of that – to give back to the people. I was always taught that Israel is my true home, and I can’t believe it’s happening today, but I’m finally coming home.”
Hadassah Roth, 18, made Aliyah with her family from Miami, Florida. The family is joining her older sister, who made Aliyah alone to serve in the army is part of the FIDF-Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program. Hadassah also spent last year in Israel, studying at the Midreshset “Nishmat”. She explained that the National Service women that she met during her year in Israel had a great influence on her choice to volunteer. She chose to spend the upcoming year volunteering for the “Happy Friday Every Day” project at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. “My job is to visit the families of patients and make them happy,” she said.
“The Nefesh B’Nefesh Ori program was established three years ago and supports national service volunteers,” said Executive VP of Nefesh B’Nefesh Zev Gershinsky.
“The Ori program understands that women who make Aliyah to Israel in order to do National Service need assistance and provides supplementary support from what is already offered by the National Service Authority. It is clear that Israeli society knows how to provide a great deal of assistance to the lone soldiers, and we want to ensure that the National Service women receive the same assistance.”
In partnership with Nefesh B'Nefesh