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Homecoming On The Tarmac

Homecoming On The Tarmac

A group of French Jews who made aliyah last week to be part of Israeli life avoided one of the less-enjoyable parts of Israeli life — a nationwide strike, the third in eight months.

Histadrut, Israel’s major labor federation, exempted Ben-Gurion Airport from a general strike that paralyzed the country for 24 hours. Workers at the airport remained on the job to handle the arrival of more than 600 French citizens, the largest single-day aliyah from France since 1972.

“Since the founding of the state, aliyah was never stopped, not even for one day, for any reason, even war,” said Ze’ev Bielski, chairman of the Jewish Agency.

Bielski was part of a delegation of prominent Israelis who greeted the newcomers at the airport. With him were President Shimon Peres, Absorption Minister Ya’acov Edri and Pierre Besnainou, founder of the French AMI organization.

“This is a magnificent day for all of us,” Peres declared. “Israel is a passion-filled country where we are still resolving our national problems. Now you are part of the process. I cannot promise you it will be easy, but you will never be bored here.”

One immigrant, above, celebrates by waving two Israeli flags. Another, left, waves a large flag, while others, right, descend the stairs from their El Al flight.

The two planeloads of olim on the day after Tisha b’Av were part of a recent aliyah surge from France — some 4,000 have arrived in the last 18 months.

“We have been dreaming of this moment since 1948,” said 96-year-old Moise Bettan, who came with his wife Louise, 91. “I guess we are proof that it is never too late to make aliyah.”

Most of the olim headed for new homes in Ashdod and Jerusalem. The next day, they were able to read about the outcome of the Hisdatrut strike. The workers settled for a 5 percent raise.

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