South African Jews making Aliyah

ICEJ riding renewed wave of Aliyah to Israel

By Howard Flower, ICEJ Aliyah director

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem continues to assist hundreds of Jewish families from many lands in making the journey home to the Land of Israel this year, despite the ongoing war in Gaza. Although the October 7 terror attacks slowed the pace of Aliyah temporarily, Jewish immigration to Israel has sprung back to life with over 30,000 newcomers expected in 2024.

According to the latest figures released by the Jewish Agency, more than 10,000 olim (new immigrants) arrived in Israel between January and April. Many of these immigrants are coming to Israel due to the rising tide of antisemitism worldwide, which has reached levels not seen since the 1930s.

French Jew making Aliyah

So far this year, the Christian Embassy has assisted more than 1,200 of these new arrivals. This includes sponsoring nearly 300 Aliyah flights for Jews from France, Ethiopia, South Africa and several Russian-speaking countries, which remain the largest source of worldwide Aliyah right now at 70%. The ICEJ also is assisting Jewish immigrants at the pre-flight stages, including Aliyah camps, seminars and consular visits, as well as ground transportation to the airports.

Faced with the alarming surge in antisemitism, the Jewish Agency has especially called upon the Christian Embassy to assist Jewish families from both Russia and Ukraine who are now war refugees in other parts of Europe.

The Russian language, which spread as the regional lingua franca under both the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, is spoken by most Jewish families living in the former Soviet republics. At its peak, the Russian Empire was home to more than five million Jews, with some 800,000 Jews still remaining in these areas.

Many Jewish families from Russia and Ukraine have fled to Europe for safety, starting in 2014. The escalation of the war in Ukraine has increased the danger and the number of refugees. In addition, the growing wave of antisemitism has produced new perils for these Jewish families. 

Latvia Aliyah Summer camp

To facilitate the Aliyah process for these families, Israel’s Foreign Ministry utilizes a special diplomatic visa application for Russian-speaking Jews called Nativ. These visa interviews for prospective immigrants are currently being conducted at the Embassy of Israel in Riga, Latvia, where the ICEJ’s local office is actively assisting with the needs of many of these families. Additionally, ICEJ has been supporting Aliyah seminars and summer and winter camps in the Baltic states for over a decade, helping to prepare young East European Jews for their move to Israel. With our help, a new group of camp counsellors is being trained to start working with Jewish children at the summer and winter camps in the Baltic region in coming months.

Education training tour

In April this year, the ICEJ sponsored a new educational training tour and seminar for these madrichim (camp counsellors) under the themes of Passover and the Holocaust. There were 36 participants who came mainly from the Baltic countries, plus some Ukrainian Jews residing in Poland, one from Sweden, and several Israeli expatriates now living as war refugees in Latvia. They learned more about the Exodus story and traditional Jewish foods, celebrated Shabbat, and had the Passover Seder meal together.

Besides passing on these Jewish traditions, the counsellors also will teach other youths about Jewish history, the Holocaust, antisemitism then-and-now, strengthening Jewish identity, and the importance of Eretz Israel as their ancestral homeland and only true safe haven for Jews today.

Auschwitz concentration camp

The special training course also showed the counsellors places connected to Jewish life in Poland, including the Auschwitz concentration camp, so as to raise their awareness about the dangers that can occur in the Jewish Diaspora and how to convince the younger generation that they belong in Israel and will be welcomed home at any time.

The ICEJ also is assisting Jewish students in Riga this month to be tested for school placement in Israel as part of the Naale youth program run by JAFI. Many of the students come from Jewish families in other parts of Europe, such as Berlin and Warsaw.

The importance of these efforts cannot be overstated. As antisemitism continues to rise globally, Israel remains the only country where Jewish people can live freely and openly as Jews, without fear of persecution or discrimination. By making Aliyah, Jewish families and individuals can ensure their safety, connect with their heritage, and contribute to Israel’s vibrant and diverse society.

Join with us as we continue to bring more Jewish families home to Israel from all over the world, many as part of urgent rescue missions. By supporting the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts at this critical time, you are answering the summons of Scripture for Gentiles to get involved in the great prophetic Ingathering of Israel (Isaiah 49:22-23).

Photo credit: JAFI