Ben Kurtzer, brother of former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Kurtzer, says of his recent immigration: "This is the happiest day of our lives, and we feel like we felt on our wedding day. This is a special country and we're proud to be a part of it." Kurtzer arrived in Israel Thursday morning with his wife and five children, on a flight with 250 other immigrants from the US.
"We decided that this is our home and we want to live here with our people. I was raised Jewish and Dallas is a great place, but I always felt like a guest. Here is the most comfortable place for me."
The Qassam that landed Wednesday doesn't discourage him. "It's not frightening. There are a lot of good things happening in Israel, but people focus only on the bad things. It's like in the US, where there are many bad things that the media chooses not to focus on. We heard of the Qassams in Ashkelon, but we're not afraid because we belong here."
The first of many
The plane that landed Thursday morning is the first of seven that will arrive this summer, bringing more than 3,500 immigrants from the US, Canada, and England. The new immigrants were greeted by youths, soldiers, and family members. Some of the arrivals bent to kiss the ground or danced a hora. Also present were Israeli President Moshe Katzav and Minister of Immigration Absorption Ze'ev Boim, who extended their best wishes.
The Kurtzer family intends to live in Maaleh Adumim. When asked if his brother, the former ambassador, also intends to make aliyah, Kurtzer responds with a smile, "My brother is very happy and proud that we immigrated to Israel. I tried to convince him to immigrate as well, but it's his decision. I'll try to use my diplomatic abilities to persuade him."
Behind the large immigration operation stand the Jewish Agency and the immigration and absorption assistance group, "Nefesh B'Nefesh", who promotes aliyah in the US, Canada and England. During its five years of existence, it has brought over seven thousand immigrants to Israel.
Same Zionism, different family
On the same flight with the Kurtzers were Steven and Dana Stern, who met at the age of four when their families were emissaries in the US. They kept in touch, via letters and phone calls, for twenty years and, now, after getting married and starting a family, they decided to immigrate as well.
Dana tells: "I was born in Israel and lived here eleven years. Steven arrived from South Africa with his family. When his family moved to the US, we kept in touch and we feel as if, now, we've come full circle. We lived in the United States for eleven years, with the knowledge that we would return to Israel. We have two daughters who are happy to be here with us."
She didn't hide her fears following such a big change. "We are very worried about everything that is going on, but we'll be here through thick and through thin. This is our home and where we belong. I always felt like a stranger in the US. This is the place to raise a family."