Already the coronavirus has succeeded where three Israeli elections could not in giving the Jewish state a functioning government. And it might again be doing the “impossible” by convincing a larger number of US Jews to finally make Aliyah to their ancestral homeland.
Given that life in the US is far more comfortable, convenient and manageable than it is in Israel, many have long predicted that it would require some great danger or catastrophe to persuade the Jewish people living there to return to their true home.
Recent statistics show that COVID-19 could be such a threat, or at least herald the kind of threat that will lead to mass Aliyah.
Increased interest in Aliyah
In March and April of this year, Aliyah-focused organizations like Nefesh B’Nefesh noted a 50 percent increase in the number of American Jews interested in immigrating to Israel.
Nefesh B’Nefesh reported that throughout April 2020, 455 new Aliyah applications were submitted to the organization, in comparison to 302 in April 2019, and 642 individuals downloaded and began working on their Aliyah applications, in comparison to 417 downloaded applications in April 2019.
And while air traffic to and from Israel has been shut down during the coronavirus crisis, planes carrying new Jewish immigrants have continued to land at Ben Gurion Airport.
An incredible 961 Olim from the US arrived in Israel in March, and the application numbers cited above indicate even more could be coming soon.
“The commitment of those who chose to make Aliyah now, in these uncertain times, is remarkable and very moving. It is matched by the commitment on our side to take the steps needed to enable the continuation of Aliyah to Israel,” Jewish Agency Deputy Chairman David Breakstone told TPS.
Safe haven for the Jewish people
America has turned out to be one of the more hard-hit nations in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Estimates now are that more than 100,000 could die of the disease by summer. Meanwhile, Israel, despite its unique challenges and even mismanagement of the crisis, maintained one of the lowest death rates among countries infected with the coronavirus, and is already returning to some semblance of normal life.
Israel did some things right. Israel did some things wrong. Israel’s health care system was heavily taxed, and large portions of the Israeli population routinely violated restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus.
Israel’s ingenuity was offset by its lack of discipline and a hyper-democratic atmosphere that prevented the kinds of truly draconian measures imposed countries like China and neighboring Arab states. As such its overall response to the coronavirus wasn’t necessarily more effective than other nations with much higher death rates.
And yet, Israel weathered this storm, like so many others before it, with a level of success no one could have predicted. Indeed, local experts and officials were predicting catastrophic infection and death rates in the Jewish state. “We could reach a million infected and 10,000 dead Israelis,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned just six weeks ago.
So, how did Israel pull it off yet again? There’s no better way to explain it than to quote the psalmist:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:1-4)
There is but one true haven for the Jewish people, even when facing invisible foes like COVID-19, and it is not the USA.