In light of a continuing international economic downturn, particularly in the United States, Jews around the world are starting to look to Israel as a haven from the financial storm.
Israel's Ministry of Absorption and the Jewish Agency for Israel expect more than 30,000 immigrants and returning Israelis to make Israel their home in 2009. The prediction is double the number estimated by the Ministry of Absorption at the end of October.
According to Ministry of Absorption director-general Erez Halfon, and Jewish Agency director of the Aliyah department Eli Cohen, the Israeli government has witnessed a surge in inquiries from Jews and Israelis interested in immigrating or returning home.
To encourage people in following through on their aliyah interest, a number of steps are being taken by Israel's government.
A new tax reform law was recently passed to provide incentive for people drawing their income from overseas. Immigrants and returning Israelis will receive tax breaks on overseas income for 10 years under the new law.
The Ministry of Absorption and the Jewish Agency have also launched a worldwide campaign emphasizing Israel's stability, tax incentives and governmental assistance, to encourage Israeli expatriates and Jews from throughout the Diaspora to move to Israel.
Included in the campaign have been various employment fairs throughout North America and Europe, aiming to inform Jews about jobs or employ them before they arrive in Israel, increasing their sense of security and ability to transition to the Jewish State. New York, Boston, Miami, Montreal, London, and Paris are just some of the conference campaign stops which were attended by thousands of interested Jewish applicants.
The Jewish Agency is also expecting a significant increase in immigration from Ukraine, Argentina, and South Africa, which have also been hit hard by the economic crisis. Approximately 9,000 Israelis have pledged to return to Israel in 2009 from these countries, marking a 50 percent increase in returning Israelis.
Minister of Absorption Eli Aflalo said he expects the wave of immigrants to provide a big boost to Israel's economy, encouraging new business, job creation, higher tax revenues, and fresh investments.
Israel recently began a special 18-month training seminar for 14 medical experts from the former Soviet Union, who will join various Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units as a way of bolstering the army's shortage of doctors.
Nefesh b'Nefesh, an organization dedicated to facilitating aliyah from North America and the United Kingdom, announced a new incentive package for immigrants who agree to move to Israel's Galilee region. The organization will supply new families with special assistance, including grants of up to $25,000, transportation subsidies, employment services, and help with social infrastructure.