Aliyah goes ahead despite the plague

The Olim of the 25 January Aliyah flight from South Africa

The January 25 2021 Aliyah flight from South Africa landed at Ben Gurion airport just hours after the Israeli skies were ‘hermetically sealed’ in a bid to contain the spread of the new COVID-19 variants.

It was the last flight to arrive on Israeli soil for what was to be weeks, and passengers were transported by bus to IDF-managed accommodation at what have become known as ‘Corona hotels’ around the country.

After ten days of quarantine and multiple health checks, Israel’s most recent Olim were welcomed into their new communities during what has been a most unusual and challenging time to make Aliyah.

The previous year saw the arrival of 350 South African Olim, with 1000 individual application files having been opened over the same period. To date more than 50 South Africans have made Aliyah in the first few months of 2021.

Telfed (SAZF Israel) reports that new Olim have had to deal with greater administrative and bureaucratic challenges. According to Telfed CEO, Dorron Kline, “Many government offices were closed to the public, with most of their employees working from home. It made the process of receiving one’s ID card difficult. However, with the lifting of strict lockdown procedures, the government offices have reopened, and new Olim can once again make online appointments with the Ministry of Interior and receive their ID cards after they conclude their quarantine period.” At the time of writing, Israel had already started to remove many of the lockdown restrictions, bringing a sense of gradual return to normality.

Pandemic restrictions and complications have clearly not stopped the swell of immigrants from South Africa to Israel. The uncertainty experienced during this time may even have contributed to prompt those considering the move to fast track the process.

After more than a year of a modern plague, how sweet for some to confirm that against considerable odds, this year Pesach is indeed in Jerusalem (or thereabout).

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• Published in the print edition of the March/April Pesach 2021 issue. Download the March/April 2021 issue PDF here.

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