Family immigrates to Israel. (Yonit Schiller/TPS) Yonit Schiller/TPS
Family immigrates to Israel

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May 2020 ended with a 100 percent increase in North American interest in Aliyah in comparison to last year’s numbers, with a record-breaking number of immigration applications.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Israel welcomed 51 Olim (new immigrants) who made Aliyah on Tuesday as part of a Nefesh B’Nefesh Group Aliyah Flight.

Tuesday’s group was the first out of several which are expected to arrive in Israel this summer. The Olim included an 87-yeas-old and a one-year-old baby.

The new arrivals came from New York, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, Wisconsin, California, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

“The past few months have been challenging at times, with everything going on in the world,” said Esti Brookhim, one of the new Olim. “I am so happy to finally be on the plane, and I am excited to start my new life in Israel!

Although flights have been grounded nearly everywhere over recent months due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Aliyah continued.

This flight follows a month showing a 100% increase in North American interest in Aliyah 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.

April showed a 50% increase in Jews who applied for Aliyah from April 2019.

Time to Come Home

Similarly, in recent weeks, as international travel restrictions have been relaxed, requests to make Aliyah among the countries where the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews operates have increased by 20%.

In May, nearly 800 families and singles submitted online applications, out of a total of 1,007 Aliyah applications which were downloaded and started since the beginning of the month. In comparison, only 424 Aliyah applications were submitted in May 2019.

The average age of May’s applicants was 28, and about two-thirds of the submitted applications were for an expected Aliyah date within 2020.

“With the recent dramatic events across the world, exploring the option of Aliyah has become more of a consideration,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh.

“For many Jews who have been contemplating Aliyah, being home with their individual families has given them an opportunity to focus on individual dreams and priorities. People have been able to stay close to family members without being in the same physical space, they have felt part of a wider community without stepping foot in a synagogue or community center, and many have been able to adapt to working remotely without compromising on productivity. We are seeing how these changes, while fundamentally challenging, are allowing more and more people to consider Aliyah today,” he explained.

“It is my privilege to welcome the new Olim who arrived in Israel this morning. Even now, during the pandemic, Israel’s gates are open to Diaspora Jews, as much as possible, while keeping everyone safe and healthy,” said Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata.

Israel is anticipating an “incredible and welcome” increase in Olim in the near future and even larger numbers in the next few years, she noted.

Her ministry is preparing a comprehensive national program to encourage Aliyah and effectively integrate Olim.

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