TEL AVIV – The global coronavirus pandemic will likely spark a massive wave of immigration to Israel, with some 100,000 expats and new arrivals expected to move to the country once the crisis is over, according to Ministry of Absorption statistics.
An estimated 60,000 Israelis living abroad have expressed an interest in returning to Israel since the outbreak in March. “There is an awakening among Israelis living abroad,” Ministry of Absorption officials said.
A further 40,000 Jews are expected to immigrate by the end of 2020, marking an increase 5,000 from 2019’s record-breaking 35,000.
Speaking to the Hebrew-language Makor Rishon newspaper, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog explained large waves of immigration to Israel have “occurred historically in Jewish communities around the world after many crises since the establishment of the state.”
He called on the government to prepare for absorbing such large numbers.
“The coronavirus crisis is paralyzing the Jewish communities’ establishment, and the Jewish agency is doing its best to help communities in need, through special representatives and also through a loan fund we have set up with Keren Hayesod and JFNA to help them financially,” Herzog said.
“These communities have seen how Israel is functioning in fighting the virus in the midst of a global crisis, and they see a robust, relatively well-functioning state,” Herzog said.
Despite the outbreak, more than 900 new immigrants arrived in the country in March.
Another 400 people began the aliyah (immigration to Israel) process in April, according to Nefesh b’Nefesh, a non-profit that promotes and facilitates immigration to Israel.
“We are prepared for all possible scenarios and are able to accompany everyone who is interested: tens, hundreds and thousands,” the group’s vice president Zev Gershinsky said.
Jews from communities that have been badly impacted by the pandemic, including in France and the UK, have shown the largest jump in expressing interest regarding aliyah.
Separately, an annual poll released ahead of Israel’s Independence Day showed that 90 percent of Israelis feel they are “a part of Israel and share in its problems,” the highest results for the question in the past decade.
Israel’s population is 9.2 million, the Central Bureau of Statistics said Sunday, having grown by 171,000 people since last year’s Independence Day. According to the CBS, the population is expected to reach 11.1 million in 2030.