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Ayalon: Aliyah dear to my heart

Then-Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon, left, shakes hands with a man about to make aliyah on a Nefesh B'Nefesh flight in a 2005 photo. (David Karp)

Then-Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon, left, shakes hands with a man about to make aliyah on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight in a 2005 photo. (David Karp)

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (JTA) — As Israel’s ambassador to the United States for the past four and a half years, I spent much time explaining the case for Israel to the American public. Not a day would pass where I would not be called upon to reaffirm my nation’s honored distinction as the homeland of the Jewish people and the sole democracy in the Middle East, and to expound on its contributions to mankind. My tenure in Washington coincided with the foundation and evolution of Nefesh B’Nefesh. I watched as the organization, which facilitates aliyah from North America, grew from a vision to an exciting reality. The more I observed the organization, the more impressed I was by its leaders and its remarkable, dedicated staff.

It became clear to me that Israel’s future is dependent upon aliyah. Aliyah is the key to Israel’s demographic security, economic development, cultural richness and democratic governance. It is the ultimate message that the Jews are here to stay in their homeland forever. This is the driving force for my decision to partner with Nefesh B’Nefesh as the organization’s co-chairman.

The sheer magnitude of what has been achieved by Nefesh B’Nefesh in bringing North American and, more recently, British Jews to Israel impressed me from the outset. Here was an organization that was succeeding in speaking to Jews across North America, bringing them by the planeload to Israel. This was a cause that was close to my heart: Bringing our people home.

When my good friends Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, the cofounders of Nefesh B’Nefesh, offered me an opportunity to play a leadership role in their organization, I felt that a unique confluence of events and circumstance had been preparing me for this role. Aliyah has been pivotal in building and strengthening the State of Israel, and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to help make this dream happen for tens of thousands of my brothers and sisters.

Our goal is to help bring as many olim as possible to Israel, assuring their successful integration into Israeli society. We will use every resource to accomplish this objective.

I intend to further the excellent relationship that Nefesh B’Nefesh has fostered with government agencies as well as with the Jewish Agency for Israel, and to continue with the comprehensive approach to the aliyah process that Nefesh B’Nefesh has developed.

Aliyah is the core essence of our national agenda. I could not imagine a greater way to serve my country.

Daniel Ayalon, who recently stepped down as Israeli ambassador to the United States, is the new co-chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh.

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