Did 2020 see massive aliyah despite COVID, or because of it?
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog with a group of immigrant children, Sunday. (Courtesy: David Salem)

Global pandemic notwithstanding, over 20,000 Jews from 70 countries made aliyah over the course of 2020, the Jewish Agency reported this week as the year draws to a close.

With help from the aliyah and Integration Ministry, The Jewish Agency set up a special situation room to help bring the new olim to Israel as countries all over the world shut down air traffic because of the coronavirus crisis.

The Jewish Agency expects the uptick in aliyah to continue even after the COVID pandemic begins to wane and that 250,000 new immigrants will move to Israel in the next three to five years.

The biggest numbers of new immigrants arrived from Russia, Ukraine, the US, and France. As of the end of November, 10,200 new olim had arrived from the former Soviet Union. Another 3,120 immigrants from western Europe, including 2,220 from France, also made aliyah this year. About 2,850 new olim arrived from North America, most of whom (2,550) hailed from the US.

Not only did immigrants continue to arrive throughout the year, but interest in aliyah spiked as COVID wreaked its havoc on economies and families. The Jewish Agency's situation room fielded some 160,000 inquiries about aliyah, and opened 41,000 new files for potential arrivals.

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog met Sunday with a group of child immigrants who arrived this year and said, "A wonderful thing happened to us — 20,000 Jews immigrated to the State of Israel during this pandemic year. 20,000 people who were ready to leave everything behind, in a challenging period of global turmoil, to come build a new life in Israel."

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