President Rivlin at Ulpan Etzion
President Rivlin at Ulpan Etzion Mark Neyman, GPO

President Reuven Rivlin today, Sunday, visited Ulpan Etzion, a Hebrew-language school in Jerusalem run by the Jewish Agency. During his visit, the president received a Jewish Agency report with figures on immigration to Israel since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, and projections for the future.

The main findings of the Jewish Agency report:

• Assessment: 250,000 immigrants within five years

• 10,000 -14,000 Jews are waiting to immigrate from Ethiopia, and their arrival will be spread over a number of years

• In the first half of 2020, around 8,500 immigrants came to Israel from dozens of countries, compared to nearly 16,000 who arrived in the first half of 2019

• There was a dramatic rise in the number of people inquiring about immigration to Israel along with a slow-down in actual immigration in the first half of 2020 because of the coronavirus restrictions

• In the first half of 2020, some 90,000 calls were received on the subject of immigration from around the world, including a 31% increase in inquiries from western countries

• Around 25,000 new immigration files were opened, with a rise of 91% in western countries and of 400% in north America

• A rise of 36% in immigration inquiries from young people

The president was escorted on his visit by Chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog and World Chairman of Keren Hayesod-UIA Sam Grundwerg.

On his visit to Ulpan Etzion, the president met and spoke with olim including Noa Tumin, 26, who immigrated recently from Moscow; Ari Sherovsky, a 32-year old doctor who is currently a resident at Ichilov Hospital and who immigrated from Argentina; Roni Cohen, a 22 year-old artist from California who is part of Garin Tzabar; and Eli Spektor, 21, who immigrated from South Africa a year ago and will enlist in the IDF in September.

“Shalom! Even if you don’t all speak Hebrew yet, everyone knows that beautiful Hebrew word – Shalom!” said the president to the young immigrants. “Moving from one country to another is not straightforward. In many cases, it carries with it feelings of foreignness and loneliness. And now, the virus brings the challenge of isolation.”

The president continued by saying, “You chose to make aliya to Israel at this challenging time. The time of coronavirus. The challenges you are facing will become the stories you tell your children and grandchildren. Israel is not just another country to immigrate to. We go up to Israel. Israel is the home of the Jewish people. You are not alone, you are home.”

The president spoke about the figure in the Jewish Agency report that there are between 10,000 and 14,000 Jews waiting to immigrate from Ethiopia and that their immigration will take place over a number of years, according to assessments. “I call on the Israeli government from here, even at this complex time, to find the way to deal with the question of the immigration of Ethiopian Jews, an issue which is back on our public agenda.”

Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Isaac (Bougie) Herzog: “Aliya never stopped, even in the deepest crises the State of Israel has confronted. This report on immigration presented to the president says that the State of Israel can absorb around a quarter of a million new immigrants from around the world in the next five years. Young people, graduates, entrepreneurs and those with high-demand professions. Along with the challenges, this would also be a rare opportunity for our country. The waves of immigration to Israel over our history made significant contributions to the economy, culture and society of Israel. The State of Israel must take the opportunity with both hands, to sit with the Jewish Agency and other organizations who deal with immigration and prepare a national plan for this welcome immigration and prevent a missed opportunity of historic proportions.”

Ulpan Etzion is a Jewish Agency Hebrew-language school. The ulpan is for young graduate immigrants between the ages of 21 and 35 from around the world from a range of backgrounds and professions. Each year, some 500 immigrants pass through the ulpan and in the last decade there have been around 4000 graduates. The students come for a five-month program that includes Hebrew classes in the morning, accommodation, absorption and employment workshops in a range of fields and guidance as they move towards independent living, including with IDF, higher studies and employment in Israel. The current course began at the beginning of August and comprises around 130 students from 21 countries. On arrival, the immigrants go through the required period of isolation before joining the program.

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