Some 900 new immigrants have arrived in Israel since the beginning of March despite the coronavirus pandemic, and that number could rise to 1,000 before Passover, the Jewish Agency reported this week.
The olim (immigrants) have come from across the globe, including Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Argentina, the US, Canada, Brazil, France, the UK, South Africa, Australia and India, it said.
The Jewish Agency has continued to bring new olim into the country “at a controlled and limited scale” in conjunction with the Immigration and Integration Ministry.
A comprehensive emergency procedure for the arrival of the olim to safely absorb them has been implemented in coordination with the Health Ministry, the Jewish Agency said.
Practically, this means that every immigrant arriving for direct absorption is required to sign a commitment, prior to immigrating, that they will go into immediate quarantine for 14 days at a fixed location.
During this period, the Jewish Agency, the Aliyah and Integration Ministry and local authorities are maintaining contact with the immigrants remotely to provide ongoing assistance.
The Jewish Agency set up an immigration hotline based in Jerusalem but linked to several dozen locations worldwide and staffed by multilingual professionals who are providing guidance and assistance to every immigrant even before they arrive in Israel.
Most immigration at the moment is by individuals and families, rather than organized groups of immigrants arriving on mass aliyah flights, the Jewish Agency said.
There have been some aliyah flights from the US and one from Ethiopia.
On Tuesday night, 72 immigrants arrived on a flight from Ethiopia and entered immediate quarantine in several hostels in the North.
They arrived following a government decision in February to approve the immigration of 398 members of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia to Israel. Their immigration was financially assisted by the Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
Another 62 new immigrants have come from the US with Nefesh B’Nefesh, 24 of whom came via a group flight last week, and the rest individually or as couples and families.
Karen and David Weinstein are one such couple who arrived in Israel last Thursday from New York City and are now in Ra’anana, a popular destination for Anglo immigrants.
They have another seven days of their quarantine to go. But due to the nationwide lockdown, they will not be able to get out much even once their isolation ends.
“It’s a bare-bones start, a bit like camping, because we don’t have all comforts of home,” Karen said, because their furniture from New York has not arrived, and they are making do with folding chairs, a folding table and bean bags in their living room.
“We’re also not in a position to go to shul and meet new people,” she said. “But those who are here who have helped us out have been great and gracious, and so we feel grateful. We want things to move forward, but we’ll be patient for that to happen.”