Hagoel: 'Hebrew language classes given in diaspora help in aliyah increase'

“People want to realize their Zionist dream and to join us in the national home of the Jewish people,” said Yaakov Hagoel, Chairman of the WZO and Acting Chairman of the Jewish Agency

Hagoel: 'Hebrew language classes given in diaspora help in aliyah increase'

Speaking with Maariv editor Golan Bar-Yosef at the 10th Jerusalem Post Annual Conference, held at the Museum of Tolerance, Yaakov Hagoel, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and acting chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, said that the WZO’s initiative to increase Hebrew language proficiency among Jews living in the Diaspora has contributed to the increase in aliyah in recent years.

“The Jewish Agency, and the World Zionist Organization, together with the [Aliyah and] Integration Ministry, determined that one of the things that prevents aliyah is the inability to speak Hebrew. Not being able to speak the language is a barrier to work and education.

“We operate hundreds of ulpan classes around the world, and the 30% increase in aliyah this year is, to a large extent, due to increased Hebrew proficiency,” explained Hagoel.

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He stated that while the pandemic, economic concerns and the rise in antisemitism have played a role in the rise in aliyah, the overriding reason people make aliyah is their Zionism and love for the Land of Israel.

“People want to realize their Zionist dream and to join us in the national home of the Jewish people,” said Hagoel.

Yaakov Hagoel (Credit: Marc Israel Sellem)Yaakov Hagoel (Credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

He noted that the agency has brought to Israel 3.5 million Jews since the founding of the state.

“It is not easy to make aliyah – to leave your birthplace, where you speak the language, where your family lives. It is a great challenge. I was born here, and I salute every oleh who decides to leave his comfortable surroundings and come home to Israel.

“I have no doubt that the State of Israel is ready and prepared to absorb olim in this country.”

Hagoel said that all Israelis need to help new olim and assist them in adapting to their new country.

EARLIER, IN a panel discussion titled “Israel and the Diaspora: Our Jewish Connection,” moderated by Steve Linde, editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Report, Jpost.com online editor Tamar Beeri and agency and WZO officials discussed the ongoing activities of their respective organizations.

Amira Ahronoviz, CEO and director-general of the agency, reported on its activities during this past year and noted that aliyah never ceased despite the difficulties presented by the corona pandemic.

“Israel will never close its doors,” she said. “Even when flights were canceled, and many countries were under lockdown, we made sure that people could achieve their goals.”

Ahronoviz stated that the agency has brought to Israel more than 36,000 olim since March 2020, and said that interest in aliyah is at a record high, as more than 60,000 aliyah files have been opened since the pandemic.

“This is a historic opportunity that should not be missed,” she said.

Amira Ahroniviz (Credit: Marc Israel Sellem)Amira Ahroniviz (Credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Shelley Kedar, director of the Connecting the Jewish People Unit at the agency, explained the various technical means that the organization utilized to work around the difficulties caused by the pandemic, including conducting aliyah interviews via Zoom.

“This is the beauty of the State of Israel,” she said, referring to the herculean efforts that were made for aliyah during this past year.

Marina Rozenberg Koritny, head of the Department for the Promotion of Aliyah at WZO, summarized her department’s efforts in three areas: promoting the State of Israel, the Hebrew language and aliyah. “Israel needs aliyah,” said Koritny, “because olim make the country bigger, smarter and stronger. For many years, the Jewish people needed a country. Today, the country needs the people.” She added that the Hebrew language is the glue that binds the Jewish people, noting that WZO has conducted more than 1,600 Hebrew classes worldwide.

Marina Rosenberg Koritny (Credit: Marc Israel Sellem)Marina Rosenberg Koritny (Credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Marina Rozenberg Koritny, head of the Department for the Promotion of Aliyah at WZO, summarized her department’s efforts in three areas: promoting the State of Israel, the Hebrew language and aliyah.

“Israel needs aliyah,” said Koritny, “because olim make the country bigger, smarter and stronger. For many years, the Jewish people needed a country. Today, the country needs the people.”

She added that the Hebrew language is the glue that binds the Jewish people, noting that WZO has conducted more than 1,600 Hebrew classes worldwide in recent years.

Finally, Gael Grunewald, deputy chairman of WZO and head of the Education Department, pointed out that education is needed to encourage aliyah.

Grunewald, who himself made aliyah from France, said that the WZO has more than 250 emissaries worldwide working with Jewish students, promoting Israel to communities, encouraging aliyah, and connecting Jews everywhere.

He stated that encouraging and promoting aliyah is a national responsibility. “Aliyah is not a mission only of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. It must be done together with the government of Israel.”

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