Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90
Jewish Agency head Isaac Herzog welcoming some 300 new immigrants from France on a special Aliyah Flight, at Ben Gurion Airport on July 23, 2018.

Israel is expecting a quarter of a million Olim (immigrants) in the next 3-5 years, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog told the Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee, a wave of immigration following the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Committee chairman David Bittan stated at the Knesset session on Monday that “relations with the Jews of the Diaspora are important and vital, both for Aliyah (immigration) and for the identification of Diaspora Jewish leaders with the State of Israel,” and emphasized the necessary assistance to the small communities, especially in the fields of education, communal activities and security.

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He noted that the large communities have been severely affected by Corona-related mass deaths, profound damage to the community and its educational activity and the wave of anti-Semitism, and therefore a significant wave of immigration is expected in the next year and a half.

According to Herzog, some four million Jews have immigrated to Israel through the Jewish Agency in over 70 years from 45 countries, and Israel should now expect a particularly large wave of immigration in the next 3-5 years of some 250,000 immigrants, most of them young and freelance professionals.

“It is a historic challenge that must be exploited, and the government must understand the importance of the hour and prepare a national plan to absorb this wave,” he told the Committee.

The Jewish Agency’s call center is flooded with inquiries, an increase of 50% from English speaking countries and 70% from French-speaking countries, he said.

Amira Aharonovich, Director General of the Agency, shared the recent immigration figures. In 2019 35,000 immigrants arrived in Israel, including 24,651 from the former Soviet Union block, 3,963 from European countries, 3,539 from North America, 1,746 from Latin America, 663 from Ethiopia, 422 from South Africa, 318 from other countries in the Middle East, and 189 from Australia and New Zealand.

The increase in immigration has been recorded over the past decade, and in 2009 there were only 16,000 immigrants.

She also reported a sharp rise in the number of immigration cases opened in the past three months, with North America registering 573% in file openings, 269% in France, and 99% in Latin America.

Nefesh B’Nefesh, which facilitates Aliyah from North America and the UK, saw a 100% increase in North American interest in Aliyah in May in comparison to numbers from May 2019, the highest recorded month of Aliyah applications that Nefesh B’Nefesh has experienced in the past 18 years, since its founding.

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