Netanya was on the mind of the passengers boarding an El Al jet for Israel Tuesday afternoon: a terrorist had struck at a mall in the coastal city a few hours earlier. Netanya had a special meaning for the Berman family of Potomac, Md.: the Bermans, part of a group of 320 people who made aliyah in what is believed to be the largest one-day immigration from North America, are settling in Netanya.
Jesse Berman, below, kneeling, plays with his dogs, one of six pets the family brought to Israel, in the El Al terminal at JFK Airport before takeoff. With the Bermans is Michael Landsberg, head of the Jewish Agency’s aliyah department.
Tuesday’s flight coincided with one from Toronto’s Pearson Airport; they are the first of six dedicated El Al flights from the United States and Canada that will carry 3,200 olim this summer under the aegis of the Jewish Agency and the Miami-based Nefesh B’Nefesh organization, which promotes aliyah. Israeli officials sent the new Israelis off here and greeted them at Ben-Gurion Airport.
"More Jews coming to Israel makes Israel stronger: this is the answer to terrorism," said Arye Mekel, Israeli consul general in New York. Several of the passengers will live in Netanya, Mekel said. "They heard of this [terrorist attack] at the airport, and they said "It doesn’t change our plans, because we believe Israel is safe."
Henry Fuerte, top right, another new immigrant, who survived the 9-11 terror attacks here, shakes hands with Daniel Ayalon, Israeli ambassador to the U.S.