Aliyah (immigration) to Israel can be a trying experience at times, but for Tzvi (Phil) and Shari Reiss and their children, their arrival on Tuesday was an especially dramatic and moving moment in which they were welcomed royally.
The Reiss family made their home in the national religious community of Moreshet in the northern Misgav Regional Council area. They were welcomed by roughly 70 residents, who paraded them into the town with flags, and then danced and sang to bring in the new family returning to the Jewish homeland.
Ezra Gilbert, a member of the Moreshet town council who himself made aliyah in 2008 from New Jersey, organized the warm reception which began well before their aliyah with contact through the Whatsapp phone app, in which the family was able to ask all their questions.
Gilbert told Arutz Sheva that the Reiss family made the decision to move to Moreshet after Tzvi got in touch with Professor Benjamin Reiser at Haifa University regarding a job. Reiser lives in Moreshet, and between talking with him and Gilbert, who knew the Reiss family from Highland Park, New Jersey, they decided to pick the town as their new home.
Then Gilbert got the idea to welcome the new olim (immigrants) in a similar way to how the town welcomes a new Torah scroll, "with joy, song, dance and a parade."
His goal was to "strengthen the Zionism and idealism of the Israelis who often wonder why would Jews move to Israel from America, encourage other Israelis to open their hearts to olim and welcome and support them as warmly as they can, and ultimately encourage more American olim to come."
Welcomed with dance
When the Reiss family landed in Israel, several families from Moreshet made the journey to the airport to greet them with signs while blowing on the traditional shofar ram's horn.
Signs reading "Reiss family welcome home" greeted them at the town, as children ran alongside their cars with Israeli flags to accompany the newcomers to their home.
At the home, which residents had found for them and prepared for their arrival – even going so far as to install a refrigerator with fruits, vegetables, bread and milk inside – the family was again feted with singing and dancing, and all of their luggage was unloaded for them by the town's teenagers.
"Community members have welcomed us in the warmest way possible," said Shari upon their arrival.
Her husband Tzvi noted that the organization "Nefesh B'Nefesh has been wonderfully supportive. Neighbors like these are like Nefesh B'Nefesh on steroids. We are tremendously grateful."
Moreshet residents expressed their hopes that the warm reception will encourage more families to make aliyah to Israel and know they are not alone in the journey.
Gilbert told Arutz Sheva that Moreshet is only 8% English speaking, and all of the olim there have a strong desire to integrate into Israeli society, although they remember their arrivals and the help they received and want to "pay it forward" to newcomers.
While rentals are limited in Moreshet and a contact is needed in the town to facilitate finding an apartment, Gilbert said that additional newcomers can expect a similar welcome – "or maybe more since the Reiss' will be playing a role next time."