On Wednesday afternoon, December 30, 2020, as the 41st and final Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) Aliyah group flight of 2020 landed at Ben Gurion Airport, 48 new Olim joined the 3,168 individuals who moved to the Jewish Homeland from North America over the last year alone, 2,625 since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Since January of 2020, Nefesh B’Nefesh Olim have most often hailed from New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Ontario, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas. Altogether in the past year, 811 families chose to move their lives to Israel, along with 1032 singles and 332 retirees.
The top ten cities in Israel that new Olim chose as their homes this year were Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh, Ra’anana, Haifa, Herzliya, Netanya, Modiin, and Be’er Sheva. The Olim most commonly worked as educators, physicians, nurses, social workers and lawyers as well as in the fields of marketing, sales and business. The average age of an Oleh this year is 30, with the oldest Oleh being a 97-year-old and the youngest being only 35 days old.
There were 61 physicians and altogether 198 medical professionals who arrived in Israel in the last year, most of whom joined the frontlines in Israel’s fight against the coronavirus, and 390 young men and women who stepped off the plane with the desire to serve Israel as lone soldiers.
In addition to the Olim who arrived throughout 2020, Nefesh B’Nefesh received 6704 Aliyah applications (in contrast to 3035 in 2019) marking a 126% increase in interest in Aliyah.
From the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Nefesh B’Nefesh quickly pivoted its various programming and transitioned into holding virtual meetings, webinars, and informational sessions. Through its online operations and due to increased demand, Nefesh B’Nefesh hosted 113 online Aliyah informational events (in comparison to 27 in 2019), marking a 318% increase year from last year, with a total of 15,277 participants (in comparison to 1,953 in 2019), representing a 682% increase.
The online seminars have allowed the organization to reach a much wider audience as potential Olim have been able to virtually attend from 57 different US states and Canadian provinces. These online seminars have included a wide range of subjects, anywhere from choosing communities and special webinars for medical professionals, to how to pack and ship for Aliyah.
“From the earliest days of the Jewish State, no matter how trying or difficult the circumstances, Aliyah has always continued in order to preserve what was once a distant dream for our parents and grandparents,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “As we look back at the challenges everyone faced in 2020, we are extremely proud of what we have accomplished together. We look forward to watching each Oleh grow and build their new lives in Israel, and eagerly look ahead to 2021, a year with the potential to exceed all expectations in Aliyah.”
“I welcome the dozens of new Olim who chose to leave everything, especially during the time of a global epidemic and fulfill their dreams of building new homes for themselves in Israel,” said Minister of Aliyah and Integration, MK Pnina Tamano-Shata. “Many will surely remember 2020 as a challenging and complex year, but the Olim who arrived today from across the US, and are part of the last group of Olim this year, are enabling it to be shaded in more encouraging and optimistic colors. Despite COVID-19, the Jewish nation is thriving and Aliyah is continuing. In the past year, more than 20,000 Olim from 80 countries around the world made Aliyah. It is a great privilege to head an office that continues to work day and night to allow Diaspora Jews to come to Israel even in times of crisis and ensure their optimal and full integration here in Israel.”
“The thousands of new Olim from North America and around the world, during a year of a global pandemic, lockdowns and almost complete paralysis of international air travel, emphasizes how much the longing for Zion is deeply ingrained in the hearts of the Jewish people around the world,” said Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Isaac Herzog. “The Jewish Agency proudly accompanies these newcomers in their first steps in the State of Israel and I wish them much success in their new lives. I congratulate our dear friends at Nefesh B’Nefesh, an important organization, for their crucial work during such a complex year for all of us.”