Aliyah to Israel hits 30-year peak!Published on: 8.6.2023
Join the ICEJ’s urgent efforts to bring Jews home from all directions
By: David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman
Israel is currently witnessing the highest surge in Jewish immigration in 30 years, and the Aliyah wave is still building. But excitement over the rising number of new arrivals is also mixed with concerns about the urgent crises now driving Jews to return home from around the world.
This week, Israeli authorities released the latest Aliyah figures showing that over 100,000 new immigrants have arrived in Israel since the start of 2022, marking the highest number since the mass Soviet Jewish influx three decades ago. Over these past 17 months, some 60,000 Jewish immigrants have come from Russia, 20,000 from Ukraine and the remaining 20,000 from other countries worldwide.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is doing our part to help bring as many of these Jewish families as possible home to Israel. Our current efforts are focused on Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic states and other former Soviet republics, plus Ethiopia and the Bnei Menashe from India.
So far this year, supporters of the Christian Embassy have funded over 1,120 Aliyah flights, while also helping assist another 1,500 Jewish immigrants with other stages of their move to Israel. Our actual flight numbers this year include 180 from Ukraine, 197 from the Baltic states, 370 from other former Soviet republics, and 375 from Ethiopia. This is an amazing testimony of Christian love and concern, and the opportunity is here to do even more over coming months because the number of Jews seeking urgent Aliyah assistance is so great right now!
Aliyah from the North
Much of the current surge in immigration to Israel has been sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of last year. In the 16 months since, over 80,000 Russian-speaking Jews have moved to Israel. About one-quarter fled the war in Ukraine, but surprisingly the vast majority are arriving from Russia and other former Soviet states to escape the economic impact and other uncertainties brought on by the conflict.
This mass stream of Aliyah from the North shows no sign of letting up, so the ICEJ will continue to sponsor urgent Aliyah flights from these regions in the months ahead. We also have three large Aliyah camps planned this summer for Jewish youths from the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) and Ukraine, to help prepare them for life in Israel.
Aliyah from the South
The Ethiopian Aliyah also has taken on a fresh urgency due to tribal and religious clashes in the Gondar region, where many Jewish families have been waiting for decades for their chance to reach Israel.
In 2015, the Israeli government decided to bring another 9,000 members of the ancient Ethiopian Jewish community still stuck in transit camps in Addis Ababa and Gondar. So far, some 6,750 of these eligible immigrants have been flown to Israel, with the ICEJ sponsoring roughly half (3,255) of those flights.
However, the Ethiopian Aliyah has often been slowed by unforeseen events, such as the repeated elections in Israel, the global pandemic, as well as drought, famine and civil war in Ethiopia.
To speed things up, Israel launched a special airlift in late 2021 called “Operation Rock of Israel” to bring another 3,000 Ethiopian Jews to the Promised Land. As of now, 2,809 of these Ethiopian olim (newcomers) have arrived, with the ICEJ covering the flights for 635 of them. The last two flights of the airlift are expected by early July, and the Christian Embassy just committed to helping sponsor one of these flights. Hopefully, even more Ethiopian Jews will be able to come in near future.
These upcoming flights are urgently needed as recent reports indicate riots between Muslim and Christian tribes have broken out in the Gondar region where many Ethiopian Jews are still living. Three men approved to make Aliyah to Israel were just shot and killed, while an Ethiopian Jewish boy was wounded – all innocent victims of the spiralling violence. Thus, the Israeli government is facing pressure to take urgent action by bringing the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel. With your support, the Christian Embassy can be there to help bring them home.
Aliyah from the East
Meantime, the Bnei Menashe community also has been caught in the crossfire of recent clashes between rival tribes in northeast India. An isolated remnant of Chinese Jewry, the Bnei Menashe – like the Ethiopian Jews – have been recognised as “Sons of Israel” and thus are eligible to make Aliyah. But they too have been waiting many years to make the journey home to Israel.
Several thousand Bnei Menashe have already made it to Israel, many on flights provided by the ICEJ, leaving some 5,000 members of the community still waiting their turn to make Aliyah. But those in the Manipur region of India are now facing violent attacks from Hindus lashing out at the Kuki ethnic minority, which consists mainly of Christians but also of this small Jewish remnant.
Several Bnei Menashe were killed and many more went missing after fleeing into the forests. Two synagogues were burned, and nearly 200 Bnei Menashe families lost their homes and belongings in the widespread fires and looting. Hindu rioters were even heard yelling: “Go back to Israel where you belong!”
“We were helpless as stones rained down on our house. We had to hide under our beds for cover”, recalled Yosef Vaiphei, who fled with his family when their home in Imphal was ransacked.
He added that the local police seemed to be siding with the majority Meitei tribe, who are Hindus. Only when the Indian army arrived to restore order were Yosef and his family safely evacuated to an army base and later to a hotel for refugees in another city.
“It has been a tough month for me and my family as we try to come to terms with what happened”, Yosef lamented. “We felt shocked, helpless, hurt, sad, tired, numb and angry at the same time… No words can bring back what we’ve lost.”
Yosef Vaiphei is still not able to return to their burned and plundered home, but he knows that the only path forward for his family is to make the journey to Israel.
Israeli officials are busy arranging to bring a group of endangered Bnei Menashe on Aliyah flights over the coming months, and the ICEJ stands at the ready to help with their soon return. For many generations, this ancient Israelite community has longed for the Promised Land. With your support, we can help them finally reach their true home in Israel.
Please Act Now!
Whether it is the Russia-Ukraine conflict, or tribal-religious riots in Ethiopia and India, now is the time for Christians to stand with the Jewish people by bringing these sons and daughters of Israel home as soon as possible.
Over the coming weeks and months, the ICEJ will be engaged in pre-Aliyah activities, ground transportation, rescue flights and urgent integration of Jews from Ethiopia, India and the former Soviet republics. We invite you to be a part of helping to regather these Jewish communities to Israel from all directions, just as the Hebrew prophets foretold!
“Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 43:5-6)
Please give towards the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts today! Donate at: give.icej.org/aliyah