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Immigration to Israel could spike due to the coronavirus pandemic, leading groups say

New immigrants from North America arrive on a flight arranged by the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization at Ben Gurion airport in central Israel on Aug. 14, 2019. (Flash90)
    1. JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel could see a sharp increase in immigration over the next few years spurred on by the coronavirus crisis, two groups involved with arranging immigration to the country claim.
  • The chairman of the Jewish Agency — a nonprofit focused on bolstering Israel-Diaspora ties and immigration to Israel — told an Israeli parliament committee on Monday that Israel should expect some 250,000 new immigrants over three to five years, Haaretz reported. Israel normally absorbs about 30,000 immigrants per year, according to Haaretz.

On Wednesday, Nefesh B’ Nefesh, an organization that assists Jews from English-speaking countries in immigrating to Israel, reported that in June 2020, the organization received 1,350 immigration applications, compared to 399 in June of last year.

Nefesh B’ Nefesh also received 25,435 phone calls to its call center requesting information about the immigration process, in comparison to 5,349 in June 2019.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported Tuesday that the trend is consistent in Brazil, which is always among the countries that send the most immigrants to Israel every year. Last year, 750 Brazilian families started the immigration process. The 2020 tally is expected to reach up to 1,200, according to the Jewish Agency.

Isaac Herzog, the Jewish Agency chairman, participated in a Zoom press briefing on Wednesday that included the leaders of several Diaspora Jewish communities. He pointed to multiple factors that could account for the immigration spike, including Israel’s handling of the pandemic — which was hailed originally for its efficiency, but has since come under scrutiny; the rise of anti-Semitism around the world; the desire people are having during the crisis to be closer to relatives who already live in Israel; and the knowledge that despite the coronavirus, Israel continues to have a strong health care system and social services, while many countries’ economies have flagged.

Israel’s unemployment rate has jumped in recent months as well, however.

“This is a historic challenge that we must exploit, and the government needs to understand the opportunity and prepare a national program for absorbing this immigration wave,” Herzog told the parliamentary committee for immigration, absorption and diaspora affairs.