Call it the Corona Effect if you like, but Israel is expecting aliyah to double this year and a potentially bigger wave in 2021.
Jewish Agency Director-General Josh Schwartz told the Knesset that the pandemic will probably drive up immigration to Israel, with an expected 50,000 Jews moving to Israel in 2020.
While the coronavirus affected many Jewish communities around the globe, Israel managed to control the spread of COVD-19 and had a low death toll of 290 as of Wednesday. A surge in anti-Semitism surrounding coronavirus outbreaks in Jewish communities abroad is probably another factor.
Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that facilitates aliyah from North America, reported an all-time high in the number of new immigration requests, with more than 800 families applying online to move to Israel in the next few months. And Nativ reported 20,000 new immigration requests from the former Soviet Union following the coronavirus crisis outbreak — as opposed to 6,000 before the pandemic.
“Coronavirus has caused a lot of U.S. Jews to rethink their paths and work to carry out something they’ve been planning for some time,” Nefesh B’Nefesh said.
According to Makor Rishon, an emergency meeting regarding immigration was held last month with representatives of the Jewish Agency, World Zionist Organization (WZO), Nefesh B’Nefesh, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Ofek Israeli and Nativ.
“We have an unusual opportunity to make a 2,000-year-old dream come true” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh.
Though it slowed considerably, aliyah continued despite the pandemic and lockdowns across the world. Until now, anyone entering the country must enter quarantine for 14 days including new immigrants.