Israel 'going up' with promising Aliyah numbers

Immigrants arrived to make their homes in Israel during the pandemic as they have during wars and other troubled times. It is an acknowledgment that life goes on.

New olim from North America with Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata. (photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN)
New olim from North America with Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata.
(photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN)

The Hebrew word for immigrating to Israel is “aliyah,” literally “going up.” This week as the country marks Yom HaAliyah (which falls on October 13), there is double cause for celebration. The number of immigrants has increased by 31% compared to last year, with some 20,360 olim arriving so far in 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.

Data on immigration was released this week by the Aliyah and Integration Ministry and The Jewish Agency ahead of Yom HaAliyah, a national holiday that celebrates immigrants to Israel from all over the world.

Although aliyah will likely be lower than the level reached in 2019, the last full year before the COVID-19 pandemic – when some 34,000 new immigrants arrived – the way the numbers have bounced back is impressive. 

Throughout the pandemic, and despite limitations on international travel, new immigrants have continued to arrive in Israel, an expression of Zionism in its purest form. Indeed, aliyah to Israel might mean a homecoming to the only country in the world in which the word “Zionism” can be used freely in a positive sense.

Immigrants arrived to make their homes in Israel during the pandemic as they have during wars and other troubled times. It is an acknowledgment that life goes on.

Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata said on Sunday: “I am pleased to launch Aliyah Week for 2021 where we salute olim for their contribution to the State of Israel. I worked in the government to ensure aliyah does not stop for a moment – also during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns – because aliyah is the realization of the Zionist dream. I am pleased by the tremendous increase in the number of olim who decided to make aliyah to Israel since the beginning of the year. We at the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration will continue to work to assist olim in the aliyah and integration process in Israel.”

The largest number of immigrants this year came from Russia (5,075) and the US, with 3,104 (who made aliyah with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh). Meanwhile, 2,819 immigrants came from France (a 55% increase), 2,123 from Ukraine, 780 from Belarus, 633 from Argentina (46% increase), 490 from the UK (20% increase), 438 from Brazil and 373 from South Africa. Finally, 1,589 came from Ethiopia, compared with 285 in 2020, thanks to Operation Zur Israel, led by the Jewish Agency and the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, which helped immigrants reunite with their families after decades of separation.

That Tamano-Shata, who arrived from Ethiopia as a child, is now a minister is an inspiration in its own right.

Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata and Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and the Acting Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Yaakov Hagoel greeting the French olim as they depart the airplane in Israel.  (credit: NOGA MALSA)Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata and Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and the Acting Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Yaakov Hagoel greeting the French olim as they depart the airplane in Israel. (credit: NOGA MALSA)

The coronavirus era has seen not only a global health crisis but also a rise in antisemitism. But Jews who are coming to Israel now are not fleeing from their previous homes, rather freely choosing to make their homes here: They are being pulled, not kicked out.

That is partly because of the attraction for Jews to live their lives in the one Jewish state: the one country that operates according to the Hebrew calendar and Jewish holidays and traditions. It is also because the country is seen to be thriving.

We hope the likely decision by the Health Ministry to allow vaccinated tourists into the country beginning in November will give more people of all religions a chance to see the miracle that is modern Israel and for Jews to come and realize that this is home.

Israel, of course, is not perfect and the government and other bodies need to ensure that not only are more immigrants (and returning Israelis) encouraged to come, but that there are also suitable employment and housing opportunities available after arrival.

The influx of new immigrants strengthens the country both in its numbers and by its diversity.

The Yom HaAliyah Act, which was established by the Knesset in 2016, is celebrated on the seventh day of the month of Heshvan according to the Hebrew calendar and coincides with the Torah portion of Lech Lecha, in which God commands Abraham to go to the Land of Israel.

The ingathering of the Exiles is a biblical prophecy coming to life in the modern State of Israel. That is definitely cause for celebration.