In recent weeks as coronavirus-related travel restrictions are lifted, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews reported a 20% rise in aliyah (immigration to Israel) requests.
In recent weeks as international travel restrictions have begun to relax, requests to make aliyah among the countries where The Fellowship operates have increased 20%. This is in addition to the existing backlog of requests after aliyah flights were delayed for two months and immigration visas were suspended due to office closures.
The Fellowship has been helping Ukrainian Jews make aliyah amid the coronavirus, and recently a number of flights carrying more than 100 olim (immigrants) each have arrived in Israel.
Vadym Sergiyenko, 57, arrived to Israel on a flight of 111 passengers on Monday. "I am so glad to come to Israel and have been waiting for it for a long time. Medical care in Israel is on another level and especially in times of corona, this is paramount,” said Sergiyenko, who made aliyah alone.
On Wednesday, a plane carrying 109 Jews from Ukraine landed in Israel. Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata welcomed the new arrivals, "Welcome to Israel! Every aliyah is a reason for celebration. The return of Jews from all over the world is a symbol of unity of the Jewish people of Zion. I was privileged to begin my post as the aliyah and immigration minister with the arrival of 109 new olim from Ukraine."Tamano-Shata, who made history this week by becoming Israel's first Ethiopian-born minister, added, "Along with them, I am excited to begin the Israeli-Zionist journey with concern for their optimal absorption and unconditional well-being. Aliyah is building this country, and so it was and will continue to be on my watch. Welcome back!"
The olim who landed on Wednesday were meant to arrive in Israel in March. However, as coronavirus spread in Ukraine, the government closed their airspace and tightened their borders. Despite this, The Fellowship managed to coordinate a rescue flight with the Ukrainian government to finally allow the olim – who had already sold their homes and left their jobs with the intention of making aliyah, and had been waiting two months – to make the trip to Israel.
New olim who have recently landed in Israel are set to follow the Health Ministry's coronavirus regulations, and will be quarantined for two weeks. Assuming there is no change in their health, the olim will be allowed to move into their permanent housing and begin their absorption process in Israel at the end of the quarantine period.
Sergiyenko, originally from the city of Odessa, plans to move to Ashdod immediately after completing the quarantine period. "I've been waiting to make aliyah to Israel for a long time,” he said. “For many years, I did not feel that I lived where I could be proud of my Judaism. With the coronavirus crisis, I feel that the conduct in Israel is more responsible. I heard there's a heatwave in Israel, but I'm not worried. I prefer to live in a warm place with warm people.”
The first case of the coronavirus in Ukraine was discovered in late February in the western part of the country. It is currently the region with the highest number of infections. Many residents of the region work outside the borders of Ukraine in various European countries. They were among the first to contract the virus and brought it into Ukraine upon their return. Since mid-March, the state has been isolated, while the situation is expected to continue until at least the end of May.
According to a Reuters tally, nearly 20,000 coronavirus cases have been reported as of May 20, with 564 deaths.
Fellowship president and CEO Yael Eckstein said, “This is a challenging time for the entire world and the Jewish world in particular. Despite the difficulties and despite the situation, The Fellowship continues to work hard for the benefit of continued aliyah activities. I wish a great deal of success to the Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata who took office this week and was entrusted with a post that is challenging, but especially important to the global Jewish community and its relationship with Israel."
The Fellowship has been working in full cooperation with the Immigration Ministry for more than 25 years helping Jews make aliyah, and has invested more than $200 million in bringing over 750,000 olim to Israel. The Fellowship has also been a major contributor to the Jewish Agency and helped to establish Nefesh B'Nefesh.In 2014, The Fellowship began operating independently in the field of immigration. Since then, it has brought more than 23,000 olim to Israel from 30 countries around the world. Additionally, The Fellowship helps immigrant families with housing and employment and continues to advise them as they become accustomed to life in Israel.