Aliyah (immigration) to Israel continuing despite Gaza war

By Howard Flower, ICEJ Aliyah director — Originally published by ICEJ

Aliyah to Israel is continuing despite the intense war with Hamas in Gaza, and the pace could even pick up given the current wave of antisemitism sweeping the globe, as evidenced in the near pogrom in Dagestan, Russia on Sunday.

Over coming weeks, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is supporting Aliyah flights for 111 Jewish youths ages 14 to 18 immigrating from the former Soviet republics. After they complete their study program, they will be eligible to become Israeli citizens and serve in the IDF to defend their new homeland. The ICEJ also is working on the ground in these same former Soviet countries to help with their Aliyah preparations, logistics and airport transport.

Meantime, the ICEJ also is sponsoring flights for 61 Ethiopian Jews who will arrive as soon as they get their exit documents in Addis Ababa.

So far this year, the ICEJ has assisted over 5,000 Jewish immigrants during various stages of their journey home to Israel, as well as with immediate integration needs. This includes sponsoring homeward bound Aliyah flights for more than 1,300 of these olim (newcomers). The worldwide Aliyah is expected to exceed 50,000 Jews this year – numbers not seen since the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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These figures do not include the nearly 300,000 Israeli citizens living abroad who have rushed home to defend their ancestral homeland. With most flights in and out of Israel cancelled due to Hamas rocket barrages from Gaza, EL AL and other Israeli airlines have still been operating out of Ben-Gurion Airport and the in-bound flights are packed with a mix of returnees and new immigrants. In fact, some Israeli airplanes have added extra seats to accommodate the increased demand and Israeli pilots have even allowed some people to sit on the floor in the galley or in cockpit seating. 

Despite the raging war, significant numbers of Jewish immigrants have come from the USA, France and the republics of the former Soviet Union, and the Christian Embassy is a part of this patriotic wave of Aliyah.

Often, wars in Israel or Islamist terror attacks against Jews and ‘infidels’ around the world have resulted in stirring waves of Aliyah that strengthen Israel. For instance, Israel’s surprisingly swift victory in the 1967 Six-Day War instilled a sense of pride and confidence among Jews worldwide in their national homeland, and inspired a bump in Aliyah that lasted into the 1970s.

The September 11 terror attacks were followed by a major surge in Aliyah from the USA, and during those years the ICEJ sprang into action to assist many of those olim.

Rampant antisemitism throughout Europe during the second Palestinian intifada (2000-2005), and later the Gaza rocket wars of 2009 and 2014, also prompted scores of French Jews to come home to Israel.

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In 2013, more Aliyah was triggered by the Boston Marathon bombing, which was committed by two Muslim brothers from Chechnya in southern Russia, a region with millions of Muslims which has been a hotbed of antisemitism for decades.

The hatred of Jews in the Caucus region boiled over again this past Sunday in response to several days of Palestinian calls for violence against Jews on a popular Telegram channel. An angry crowd of Muslim youths and women in Dagestan searched a hotel looking for Jews and Israelis, and then a larger lynch mob invaded two airports in search of Israelis and Jews coming on a scheduled flight from Tel Aviv. Quick thinking on the part of local authorities saved the Jews from certain harm, but many Muslim rioters and police were injured. No doubt, many in the Jewish community still left in Russia will be considering a move to Israel after this frightening incident.

French Olim

With tens of thousands of mostly Muslim refugees from the Middle East now marching through the streets of European cities and stridently calling for Israel’s demise (“From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”), Jewish communities are having to increase their protection around synagogues and it is very likely that we will soon see another Aliyah surge from France and other parts of western Europe. Indeed, Israel welcomed 26 French Jewish immigrants just last week.

Israel’s Minister of Immigration Ofir Sofer met them at the airport and said: “These immigrants prove precisely during a difficult war the belief of the people of Israel in the righteousness of their path, a belief that has accompanied the Jewish people for thousands of years… We will continue to realize the vision of the return to Zion at any time.”

Young immigrants

Immigration to Israel over the past year set a two-decade record with 38,000 new immigrants celebrating their first Shabbat as Israeli citizens. This surge in immigration was widely attributed to the war in Ukraine and its aftershocks throughout the Russian-speaking countries. This month, ICEJ will be helping young Jewish people from several of these former Soviet republics come to Israel, even while we also are standing strong with relief aid, prayer, and solidarity with the Jewish nation in one of its most difficult hours.

The ICEJ has already assisted over 5,000 Jews on their journey home to Israel so far this year, including the funding of homeward Aliyah flights for more than 1,300 of these newcomers. Join with us in this urgent and timely effort to build up Zion and help strengthen the nation of Israel! Make your best gift today to the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts!

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