Fifty Percent Spike in North American Jews Interested in Immigrating to Israel Amid Virus

GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images
GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images

TEL AVIV – April saw a 50 percent increase in the number of application requests from the U.S. for immigration to Israel compared with the same month last year, and that number is expected to grow, a report in the Hebrew-language Makor Rishon newspaper said.

A total of 455 aliyah requests were filed by North American Jews in April in comparison with last year’s 302, aliyah (immigration to Israel) group Nefesh B’Nefesh said, according to Makor Rishon.

Nativ, which organizes aliyah from the former Soviet Union, said it had received 20,000 new immigration requests following the coronavirus crisis outbreak, compared with 6,000 beforehand.

The Jewish Agency, which is in charge of facilitating aliyah from most of the world, projected a 30 percent rise over the next two years as a result of the pandemic.

Jewish Agency officials met with officials Ministry of Immigration and Absorption representatives to discuss measures to prepare for the influx.

A new hotline providing information and assistance for new immigrants has received 1,000 calls a week, the Jewish Agency said.

Qualita, which assists French immigrants after moving to Israel, has now received around 2,000 requests from Jews in France looking to make aliyah since the start of the outbreak two months ago. According to the organization, the impact of COVID-19 on France’s Jewish community, which has had suffered a disproportionate number of deaths and infections in relation to the population at large, has sparked the increase in requests.

“Many Jews around the world have suffered or been negatively affected by coronavirus and now want to come to Israel,” the organization’s head, Arieh Kandel, said.

“If we still think that there is a national value in aliyah, we need to provide money for an emergency aliyah,” Kandel said. “Either we are one people or not, and the way to prove it right now is through allocating budgets for this purpose.”

In March, Ministry of Absorption officials said 100,000 expats and new arrivals are expected to move to Israel by the end of 2020.

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog  explained at the time that 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.

 

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