Covid sparks boom in moving to Israel

RATHER than diminishing interest in emigrating to Israel, the Covid-19 pandemic appears to have fuelled it.

A total of 7,965 aliya applications from North America were submitted in 2020 — double that of the previous year.

Over the first three months of 2021, the number of immigrants from America was up 30 per cent over the same period a year ago.

“We’ve seen unprecedented interest since spring 2020,” said Marc Rosenberg, vice-president for Diaspora partnerships at Nefesh B’Nefesh, which manages aliya applications.

“Past events sparked inquiries and applications, but never like this.”

A few factors are driving the increase, immigration officials believe.

* The pandemic has spurred people to reconsider their life priorities, giving urgency to the dream of living in Israel.

* The shift to remote work has enabled a growing number of people who want to move to Israel without giving up their careers to do so.

* Israel’s success combating the virus and efficient rollout of vaccines encouraged some of those already considering aliya.

“I figured that the risk of contracting the disease seemed the same in both countries, but in Israel I would be able to be immediately vaccinated,” said Ariana Gordon, 33, who moved to Israel recently from Los Angeles.

The pandemic also prompted educator 27-year-old Ilanna Price, who was living in New York while the rest of her family had moved to Israel over the past decade, to make the move too.

“Things were going well, but then came Covid and I was stuck at home and the ability to do my job was severely limited,” she said. “The situation gave me the extra push to finish up my aliya application.”

She now lives in the trendy Florentine area in south Tel Aviv and works as a kindergarten teacher.

For Rachel and Yosef Gross, the challenge of aliya during the Covid era came after arrival.

“My dad was sick with cancer in Chicago and I thought I would be able to go back to visit him regularly,” said Rachel.

“But then Covid happened. He passed away in February this year and I couldn’t get there.”

Yet she says she has no misgivings about moving to Jerusalem. Rachel, 28, has a job as a graphic designer and Yosef, 27, works in digital marketing and music management.

The couple are expecting their first child later this year.

“It’s always been our dream to be in Israel, and we are blessed to be here,” Yosef said. (JTA)

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