Jerusalem, December 28, 2020 — Despite a year ravaged by the global COVID-19 pandemic, more than 20,000 individuals made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from nearly 70 countries in 2020 with the assistance of The Jewish Agency for Israel.
According to The Jewish Agency, by the end of December, approximately 20,000 olim (immigrants) will have arrived in Israel from all corners of the globe despite the limitations on mobility and international travel, with assistance from the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and the Ministry of Interior. Data tabulated by The Jewish Agency showed that from January – November of this year, around 10,200 arrived from countries of the former Soviet Union; approximately 3,120 from Western Europe (about 2,220 from France – nearly the same number as in 2019); around 2,850 from North America (roughly 2,550 from the United States, according to Jewish Agency data in coordination with Nefesh B’Nefesh); about 1,500 from Latin America; around 280 from South Africa; and nearly 90 from Australia and New Zealand. The total number of olim from Ethiopia in 2020 is expected to be 1,200, of which 650 arrived in December as part of Operation Zur Israel and another 300 olim who will land on the last day of the year.
“A wonderful thing happened to us – 20,000 Jews immigrated to the State of Israel during this pandemic year. 20,000 people who were ready to leave everything behind, in a challenging period of global turmoil, to come build a new life in Israel,” said Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog, in a meeting with children who immigrated to Israel during the pandemic from all over the world.
The Aliyah numbers for the year coincided with a sharp increase in people interested in moving to Israel. Since the start of the year, The Jewish Agency has received around 160,000 inquiries about immigration to Israel, and has opened roughly 41,000 new Aliyah application files, including 28,000 files from Western countries – twice the number opened in 2019. There was also a 41 percent increase in files opened for young adults aged 18-35 from Western countries. The Jewish Agency estimates that tens of thousands of people participated in Aliyah-related programming organized together with Ofek Israeli and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, which were held virtually due to pandemic-related restrictions.
According to Jewish Agency estimates, Israel can expect an influx of about 250,000 olim to Israel over the next three to five years, assuming the Government of Israel implements a national plan for such a large wave of immigration and absorption.
“These olim landed straight into two weeks of isolation in a new country, unknown to everyone. There is nothing more exciting than seeing these wonderful children who made Aliyah during this difficult year. I hope COVID-19 will soon be over for them and their friends, that we will see the great wave of immigration that we are anticipating from all over the world, and that all the new olim will have a smooth integration and be received with much love,” added Chairman Herzog.
To better serve the complexities of immigration during a global pandemic, the Jewish Agency Global Service Center was established, with support from the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, to facilitate the Aliyah journey, especially given the limited mobility around the globe. In accordance with Israel’s pandemic regulations, the new immigrants went into quarantine immediately upon arrival in Israel, and thousands were housed in quarantine hotels set up for this purpose.
Additionally, over 7,500 young Jewish adults from more than 60 countries arrived in Israel with Masa Israel Journey. These Masa Fellows are teaching English in schools across the country, interning in a variety of sectors, volunteering and studying. There are thousands more who are expected to arrive in the spring. Masa is a joint project of The Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel.
Dozens of doctors became Masa Fellows in order to support Israel’s medical teams during the pandemic. Another 100 doctors are expected to arrive in Israel on the next cohort. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Masa gap year programs saw a 40 percent increase in applications, including those by students from leading universities who opted to defer and enjoy a meaningful experience in Israel rather than take virtual classes. There was a similar spike of 36 percent in applications for internships and other Masa Career programs.
The Jewish Agency’s Work in the Diaspora:
The coronavirus outbreak caused unprecedented health, economic and communal-engagement crises in Jewish communities worldwide. Hundreds of Jewish Agency shlichim (Israeli emissaries) continued to serve their host communities with a wide variety of virtual educational programming, as well as socially distant one-on-one meetings, and special projects to assist tens of thousands of families and young people.
In the wake of the pandemic, The Jewish Agency also instituted an emergency plan to breathe hope into Jewish communities worldwide, including:
Immediate, interest-free loans totaling tens of millions of shekels to dozens of Jewish organizations that provide essential services. The loan fund was created in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Keren Hayesod.
Establishing JReady, the first Jewish emergency network of its kind. JReady connects Jewish communities with experts (from Israel and elsewhere) who share their expertise in emergency preparedness. So far, 30 communities have participated, including from Italy, Peru and South Africa.
The establishment of Global Roundtables, in partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, consisting of leaders of 30 global and regional Jewish organizations, who are mapping out the needs of Jewish communities and planning rehabilitation processes for “the day after.”
The Jewish Agency’s Work in Israel:
Thanks to donations from JFNA, Keren Hayesod and other philanthropists, The Jewish Agency was able to aid vulnerable populations in Israel throughout the coronavirus crisis through:
Care for 7,000 elderly residents of Amigour senior housing, most of whom are Holocaust survivors and new immigrants. Projects included upgraded health-related services and programs to alleviate loneliness during long quarantine periods.
Daily assistance for the 6,000 new immigrants residing in absorption centers during the height of the pandemic, and a special aid campaign for Lone Immigrant Soldiers in the IDF, through the Wings program, in partnership with the Merage Foundation.
Support for thousands of children and their parents in Israel’s social and geographic peripheries (totaling around 12,000 Israelis at-risk) who participate in the Youth Futures program, whose staff help the children build confidence and skills in their academics, social lives and emotional resilience. Around 230 families received financial aid as well.
Distribution of thousands of computer tablets to needy children, so they could fully participate in distance learning.
Establishment of the Third Sector Loan Fund, together with Ogen, which so far has provided loans to 83 Israeli non-profit organizations, totaling 28 million shekels, along with consulting services with expert mentors.