JERUSALEM (VosIzNeias) — When Jay Schultz came of up with the idea for Aliyah Day while hanging out with some friends, never did he dream that a few years later it would be officialy recognized as an Israeli national holiday.
But such became the reality, as Israel this week honored immigrants across the country in honor of the holiday.
“It’s a little surreal that it is actually being observed today, the fact that we had an idea that became a holiday on the calendar of the Jewish people,” Jay Schultz, the president of the Am Yisrael Foundation, told the JC.
After the idea was conceived, Mr. Schultz campaigned the idea to gain crossparty support, and eventually worked it up to be voted on in the Knesset. The Knesset approved it in 2016, and it is now becoming part of the annual routine in schools.
Schools around Israel celebrated the holiday this week, in some cases by having the immigrants talk about their experiences. In Modiin’s Darke Yehuda school, Judith and Martin Lipczer, immigrants from London, sat at the front of their grandson’s classroom, telling him and his classmates about their move in Hebrew.
“I could not be prouder of them, living their dream, and joining all their children and grandchildren,” said their son Jonny. “The idea of celebrating the contributions of immigrants is a wonderful one, and each person who makes aliyah takes part in building the country.”
While the official date for Aliyah Day is in the spring, the Knesset and Israeli schools observe it during Autumn, as they would not be in session during the correct date.
According to Mr. Schultz, he was motivated to create Aliyah Day because of the central role immigration plays in Israeli society.
“We want kids acknowledging that the fundamental core value of Israel is aliyah, and it’s in all of our stories,” he said. “All of our families have done it at some point whether it was us recently, or our great great grandparents.”
He admitted that “not every wave of aliyah has been received as positively as the olim would have hoped” but said that the hope is that through the awareness that Aliyah Day brings to the nation, Israelis would be more accepting of the immigrants among them.