New immigrants arrive in Israel on Nefesh B'Nefesh flight, December 2007. (Eic413/Wikimedia Commons)

Immigration Opportunity Caused by COVID-19

Ma’ariv, Israel, July 10

Aside from an ever-growing rate of confirmed COVID cases in the country, each passing week reveals a spike in yet another figure: the number of Diaspora Jews who chose to leave their lives behind and move to Israel. The data shows an unprecedented spike in immigration to Israel; the highest rates we’ve witnessed since 2002. Indeed, it seems as if the global pandemic revealed that, despite what we believed, Jews around the world look at Israel and see three main opportunities: employment, community, and family. On the employment front, the current pandemic turned remote work into the new normal. People once had to beg their employers to spend a day working away from the office; today people need to make a compelling argument about why they would need to be coming in. Jews around the world seem to have taken advantage of this reality by maintaining their current jobs while moving to Israel, enabling them to enjoy the best of both worlds. On the community front, the pandemic brought Jewish life in the Diaspora to a standstill. Synagogues had to turn down worshippers, Jewish community centers had to shut down their summer camps, and Jewish schools were simply unable to remain open. Therefore, more and more Diaspora Jews are looking for a strong, wider, and more vibrant Jewish community. Israel is the only place where they can find it during the pandemic. Finally, on the family front, many individuals are currently barred from seeing their older relatives. Since distance is no longer a factor – that is, living 6 miles or 6,000 miles from relatives both translate into virtual Zoom get-together – more and more Jews chose to take a leap of faith and move to Israel. Now that we understand the factors that pull Jews to Israel, it is up to us to make their transition as smooth as possible. We must eliminate bureaucratic barriers that make the lives of immigrants difficult. We must invest in the integration of immigrants into the labor force. We must help immigrants with housing and language training programs. At the end of the day, the resources spent on these individuals yield an unprecedented return on investment by practically every measure – financial, social, and political. We have an unprecedented opportunity in front of us. Now is the time to seize it. –Rabbi Yehoshua Fass (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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