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350 N. American immigrants arrive in Israel, greeted by PM Netanyahu; 127 come to enlist in I.D.F.

BEN-GURION AIRPORT, Israel (AP) — Despite regional tensions, about 350 Jews from North America landed in Israel on Tuesday, planning to make the Jewish state their new home.

Their arrival coincides with an escalating internal debate over whether Israel should attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Israel and the West believe Iran may be aiming to produce nuclear weapons. Either and Israeli attack that could set off a regional conflagration, or an Iran with a nuclear bomb to back up its frequent calls for the destruction of Israel, would seem to be good enough reason to postpone moving to the Jewish state — but the newcomers dismissed that.
N. American immigrants disembark in Israel to serve in I.D.F.

"I'm not nervous about Iran," said 18-year-old Becca Richman, who left her family in Philadelphia to serve in the Israeli military. "Honestly I'm more nervous about fitting into Israeli society than I am being in the army. This is my dream. This is what I came to do." Nearly 130 other army recruits were on Tuesday's chartered flight. The immigrants were met by throngs of family members, flags, banners, a stage and live music.

Among the dignitaries greeting them was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He commended them for deciding to "link their personal future with the future of the Jewish state and the Jewish people."

Netanyahu singled out the prospective soldiers. 

"As the Jewish state progresses and rises, so does anti-Semitism," Netanyahu warned, adding "we need to defend ourselves against that and those who give it intellectual support."

Around 2,700 lone soldiers from around the world currently serve in the IDF. Nefesh B'Nefesh and the FIDF have jointly created a program to help new immigrants successfully integrate into the Israeli army and society. Immigrant soldiers are given aid during their service, including financial grants, social assistance, and gift baskets. Upon release, they receive personal, career, and academic counseling. The FIDF operates year-round to aid lone soldiers, and funds around 400 flights annually for lone soldiers to visit their families abroad. (Israel HaYom)

Recently, Lucas Siminofsky of New York City, returned from 18-months of lone-soldier, I.D.F. service. While he was away, his father Paul Siminofsky, spoke with JooTube about his perspectives and how it has influenced his views on the defense of Israel and America.

Regarding his experience observing Lucas and his fellow lone-soldiers in Israel, "I'm very proud of all of them," says Paul.

More than 4,000 immigrants have arrived in Israel from the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom this year. Most North American Jewish immigrants give up their jobs back home when they move, according to Nefesh B'Nefesh, a group that helps potential immigrants make the move and sponsored the flights that arrived Tuesday.

"We wanted to move, and nothing can change our minds," said 33-year-old Shalom Schwartz, a lawyer from New York who plans to continue his practice remotely from his new home outside Jerusalem.

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