Jewish Immigration to Israel Growing Ever More Urgent!Published on: 4.7.2023
By: David Parsons, Vice President & Senior Spokesman
The recent surge in Aliyah to Israel is still gaining momentum due to lingering and newly developing threats to Jewish communities in numerous countries worldwide, such as Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, India and now France. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is currently positioned to assist hundreds of Jewish families to reach safety in Israel, but we can do even more if additional Christians will respond generously to this urgent need.
So far in 2023, more than 30,000 Jews have immigrated to Israel, with about 75% of them coming from Russia alone. The ICEJ has sponsored Aliyah flights for over 1,000 Jews this year, including 180 from Ukraine, 200 from the Baltic states, and 270 from Russia and other former Soviet republics, plus another 375 from Ethiopia. The door is open for us to provide additional flights for many more Jews from these regions, along with the Bnei Menashe in India, while events in France portend a new wave of Aliyah from that nation as well.
The Russia/Ukraine Conflict
The Russian invasion of Ukraine last year continues to be the main driver of the current wave of Aliyah. It has brought war and destruction to Ukrainian cities, while Russians are facing serious political and economic uncertainties. Russia’s chief rabbi already had to flee Moscow for refusing to back the war, and the Jewish Agency has been facing a stiff legal challenge to its ability to operate in the country. And now the recent attempted mutiny by the Wagner private militia has only heightened concerns that Russia’s Jews may soon be scapegoated for the mired war effort.
Meanwhile, many of the Ukrainian Jewish families arriving in Israel come without their fathers, husbands and sons of military age as they must stay behind to help defend the country. The ICEJ recently sponsored flights for one such Ukrainian Jewish family that included three generations – grandparents Yuri and Valentina, their daughter Natalia, and grandson Ivan. They fled the heavily bombarded city of Zaporizhia, but Natalia’s husband had to stay and serve in the army.
“I had to leave Ukraine as a child. I never believed it would happen again”, said Yuri, an 85 year-old Holocaust survivor who lost his own grandfather in one of Stalin’s purges. “I really want to live a normal, quiet life, that everything will work out for the best in Israel for my large family.”
“We are all immigrating together, one big family. We want to live and develop in Israel”, added his daughter Natalia. “I hope that my husband will join us soon and that we will have a good future in Israel.”
The Baltic Route
Elsewhere, the ICEJ is sponsoring several Aliyah youth camps in the Baltic states this summer for Jews interested in making the move to Israel. There are currently hundreds of Jews from the Baltics as well as Ukrainian Jewish war refugees and even Russian Jewish emigres waiting to make Aliyah from this region.
Our Aliyah work in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia first started in 2010, and has expanded over the years with the able assistance of our Latvian national director Ilze Saulite, who has been involved in Aliyah efforts since soon after the Soviet Union fell in 1989. Last year, the Christian Embassy began sponsoring direct flights from the Baltic countries to Israel, and since then we have sponsored Aliyah flights for some 500 Jews coming via the Baltic route. And many more have been helped with transportation and accommodation for consular visits, testing for Youth Aliyah study programs, Aliyah seminars, Jewish holiday celebrations, and summer and winter Aliyah camps.
The Ethiopian Aliyah
Israel has resumed the latest phase of the “Operation Rock of Israel” airlift, with more flights bringing Ethiopian Jews home to the Promised Land. The situation there remains concerning, as violent Muslim clashes with Christian communities continue in the Gondar region, where many members of the last Jewish remnant in Ethiopia are located. The next ICEJ-sponsored flight is expected in mid-July, and we will have a team there to welcome them to the Land of Israel on your behalf. Hopes are that more flights will soon follow, and we want to remain part of the concluding chapter of this historic return of Ethiopian Jewry.
Bnei Menashe in India
The situation is only worsening for the Bnei Menashe community in the Manipur region of northeast India. This ancient tribe of Chinese Jews claim descent from the tribe of Manasseh, but they are now caught in the crossfire of a bitter ethnic conflict, as the predominant Hindu tribes in the area continue to riot and rampage against the Kuki minority – who are mostly Christian. Israel is hoping to bring a large group of Bnei Menashe to Israel in coming months, but the continuing unrest has made the planning process very difficult. Nonetheless, the ICEJ has been asked to help fund these Aliyah flights and we need your help to make it happen.
Riots in France
Finally, there have been unprecedented riots in the streets of Paris and other major French cities over recent days, as mainly Muslim youths burn and pillage in protest of the death of a Muslim teenager blamed on police. The nightly carnage in France appears to be five times worse than the mass riots of 2005. Although they are not yet being specifically targeted, the French Jewish community – numbering some 500,000 – is concerned for their safety for several reasons.
First, there are many Sephardic Jews residing in the same neighbourhoods of Paris, Lyon, Marseille and other large French cities where Muslims from Algeria, Morocco and other North African countries live. Secondly, there is a troubling history of antisemitic attacks by these French Muslim immigrants against their Jewish neighbours, such as during the Charlie Hebdo riots of 2015. For these reasons, Israeli authorities fully expect a sharp rise in French Jews packing up and heading to Israel for their safety, and we need to be ready for that very real possibility.
Please Act Now!
Whether it is the Russia-Ukraine conflict, ethnic and religious clashes in Ethiopia and India, or the rioting in France, now is the time for Christians to stand with the Jewish people by bringing these endangered Jews home to Israel 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 all these countries. We invite you to be a part of helping to regather these at-risk Jewish communities to Israel from all over the world. Please give towards the ICEJ’s urgent Aliyah efforts today!
Photo credit: Sraya Diamant/JAFI