Sometimes, immigration to Israel isn't only about ideology, but also about a matter of convenience.
Miriam Esris of the Rhawnhurst section of Northeast Philadelphia was one of more than 200 people from across North America to make aliyah Dec. 29 on the final Nefesh B'Nefesh flight of 2009.
Esris, formerly an elementary-education teacher in the Neshaminy school district, said that it didn't feel so much like moving as it did like returning home.
She has had an apartment in the Ramat Eshkol section of Jerusalem for more than three years now, and has traveled to the Jewish state regularly since 1984.
Of that first visit, she said, "I remember spending most of my time figuring out how to get back" to Israel.
She finally decided to make aliyah after a September trip from Israel to Prague.
Upon returning, she said, she had difficulty getting back into the Jewish state because of issues with her three-month tourist visa. The problem was eventually solved, but she was told that one way to avoid the situation in the future was to become a citizen.
According to the Jewish Agency for Israel, 16,244 people immigrated to Israel in 2009, representing a 17 percent increase over 2008.
Nefesh B'Nefesh, which handles North American aliyah in conjunction with the Jewish Agency, reported 3,800 olim for 2009, the highest number from America and Canada since 1983.
For her part, Esris said that it was "very exciting" to be part of such a large migration, including a number of people with young children.
"We should be here," she said, "this is our homeland."