Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Katrina victim makes Aliyah

In this photo provided by the Jewish Agency for Israel, Daniel Rebuck, left, is welcomed by Michael Landsberg, Executive Director of the Jewish Agency's Aliyah Department


When Danny Rebuck heard that Hurricane Katrina had become a Category 5 storm, he got on his bicycle, pedaled 25 miles to the New Orleans airport and took one of the last flights out before the city was hit.

On Tuesday, Rebuck, 36, was boarding a plane in very different circumstances, joining about 250 others on a special flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport for Jews moving to Israel, or making aliyah.

Rebuck, a Londoner who had been living in New Orleans for about eight years, returned to the swamped city about 10 days after the storm. The soccer fields where he had worked as a coach were devastated, and many of the children he had taught had not returned to the city. A tree had fallen on his home, he said, and he spent about two weeks without electricity or sanitation.

He said he had thought about moving to Israel for some time but the hurricane gave him the "nudge" he needed to go through with it.

"It makes you open your eyes," Rebuck said by telephone from the airport Tuesday evening.

Rebuck, who left New Orleans with just his sneakers, a pair of shorts and some T-shirts in a backpack, said he also was traveling light to Israel and planned to begin his life there in Raanana.

The 8:30 p.m. flight to Israel was sponsored by Nefesh B'Nefesh, an organization that gives North American Jews moving there financial assistance and help getting homes and jobs.

The 4-year-old group has organized 15 flights to Israel, including seven this year, spokesman Charley Levine said. More than 7,000 people have moved to Israel with help from the organization, he said, and 99 percent have remained there.