There are initial signs of a wave of immigration to Israel in the wake of a spike of ugly anti-Semitic incidents that Jews in the diaspora are experiencing. While the Jewish Agency and Ministry of Aliyah and Integration believe that in a few month the scale of this wave will be clearer, real estate companies are already organizing through websites and virtual conferences and will soon be organizing conferences abroad.
It seems like anti-Semitic activity in Western Europe and North America has crossed all boundaries, both in terms of slogans calling for the destruction of Israel and in terms of behavior and harsh racist messages directed at Diaspora Jews. However, there is a huge distance between talk and assessments and actual; deeds. It is only six weeks since the war began, so to what extent is there really a wave of Jewish immigration to Israel in the pipeline?
Hundreds of immigration files have been opened
"It is certainly possible to talk about a wave of immigration in the pipeline," says Shai Felber, deputy director of the Immigration and Integration Unit at the Jewish Agency. "We see a trend that began a week after the start of the fighting, compared with the data from October last year, and see that in western countries like the US, UK, Canada and more, there is a trend of opening immigration files, which is the first stage of immigration."
In the circumstances, it is easy to understand why this is happening at this time but Felber associates what is happening with two factors. "The first factor is the fact that Diaspora Jews want to be pary of the Israeli people. There is here a large expression of solidarity and understanding that the State of Israel needs us. By the way, this happened after the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. This connects to the second factor that many Jews do not feel safe in their communities. The events in Israel are attracting them and what is happening abroad is pushing them."
Felber says that in October 2022 90 immigration files were opened in France, while in October 2023 450 files were opened. In North America 150 files were opened compared with 80 last year and in the UK 60 were opened compared with 40 last year. "As time passes and the situation will calm down here, or at least will stabilize, we will see the trend increase. This also happened after Operation Protective Edge (in 2014)," Felber says.
Something similar happened in 2015 after four Jews were murdered by a Muslim terrorist attacked a kosher supermarket in France and there was a rise in immigration from Jews in Paris.
The attack on the Jewish supermarket in Paris was a specific event both in time and place. Wasn't it forgotten very quickly
"After the supermarket attack we welcomed 6,000-7,000 in Israel within two years from France. These events, along with the Operation Protective Edge events that had occurred not long before, contributed to the immigration of many Jews to Israel. However, after two or three years, the situation on the ground calmed down."
On the other hand, the decision to emigrate doesn't always happen just like that and it naturally takes time between realizing that one needs to immigrate to Israel and the immigration itself. "At first a file is opened and there is interest in immigration, job matters are examined, housing, and education. They become more active in realizing the idea," says Felber. "This matter can also take years."
Israel is still in the very early stages of the emerging wave of immigration and the signs are currently being reflected in a significant rise in the opening of immigration files, although not in such impressive numbers. From experience, Felber says that the trend will gain momentum in the future.
How many of those who open an immigration file will actually immigrate to Israel?
"It varies from country to country but in regular times we see 50%-70% of those who open files eventually immigrating to Israel. We call it 'the rate of completion,' in other words completing the process of opening a file and immigrating.
Is there a certain type of population that has a greater desire to immigrate? For example, the religious, Haredim and even the secular?
"I don't segment them according to their religious orientation. I can say that I see more young people up to the age of 35 who are interested in immigrating. It's easier for those who are young to immigrate. These are young people who are at the beginning of their lives. Some of them are single and if they have children they are still at a stage in life that is relatively easy to transition. In general, we see a prior connection between these people and the state. Either through Jewish-Zionist education, taking part in Tagalit-Birthright, or having family in Israel. Immigration comes as solidarity for those who have a connection to their Jewish and Zionist identity."
When will we be able to call what is emerging now, a wave of immigration?
"In a few months. We will see a sharp increase in the number of immigrants, and when we continue to see the rising trend of new files being opened. We are currently sitting with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and forming plans to provide a solution to this situation."
Real estate people are preparing for a wave of purchases
Those who have already begun to act based on the assumption that an influx of thousands of immigrants and more will hit the country immediately after the war, are real estate companies who feel that maybe salvation will come from abroad to an industry that is currently in the midst of its worst crisis in decades. "We are interested in Jewish customers and what is happening to them among the various communities, and from everyone we hear about an increase in antisemitism and many who are planning to immigrate to Israel, or to purchase property in Israel, because who knows what will happen in the future," says Amos Naim, CEO of Keller Williams Israel franchise. Keller Williams has agencies in 55 countries, and with their assistance a Zoom conference was held a few days ago by the Israeli branch with many foreign residents, in which they were presented with options for purchasing apartments in Israel.
"With South African Jewry, for example, we are in very close communication. It includes about 50,000 people, and we hold real estate conferences for them four times a year. They are experiencing a tremendous wave of anti-Semitism there now. In a few months there are elections there, and one of the candidates is actually a Hamas supporter, so now he is hanging signs in Jewish neighborhoods calling for arming the terrorist organization. It really reminds me of Germany in the 1930s. So a lot of them talk to us, on the way to preparing for immigration or buying an apartment in Israel. We hear from various places in the US that they are setting up emergency defense groups. Who would have imagined such a thing?" In addition to the branch in South Africa, Keller Williams also operates with communities in the UK, Canada and France, and other countries.
"We will arrange another series of such meetings and when the war ends, we plan to organize a tour and fly to all these places. I can say that there is tremendous interest there, and there were those who did not participate in the meeting and asked for recordings," says Naim. According to him, several real estate companies, including ICR from the Canada Israel Group, Africa-Israel and Yuvalim, have already given the realtor franchise the opportunity to exclusively market its apartments to foreign residents, and that the first round is planned to take place in the US, with representatives from the companies.
Pre-ordering apartments for after the war
Marketing and sales software company BMBY is planning to organize a virtual international sales fair in the coming few days in which thousands of apartments will be offered by development companies such as Tidhar, Carasso, Rotshtein, Rotem Shani, Acro Real Estate, Yuvalim, Yesodot Eitanim, Itzhaki Investments Group, Oron Real Estate and Amram Avraham.
BMBY founder and chairman Mark Ze'evi said that as part of the fair an interactive map will be presented with details of more than 250 new projects throughout Israel. Through a visualization system it will also be possible to enter each project and conduct a virtual tour, while providing detailed information about the surrounding environment.
As part of the fair, guidance will also be provided for foreign residents and information and answers will be conveyed on marketing, financing, investments, taxation and regulation in Israel, and a benefits package will be offered that includes mortgage advice, personalized tax advice, a purchase tax spread for 36 months without interest and an upgrade package. The participants in the fair will be able to pre-order an apartment and make the purchase after the war.
Other developers have also told "Globes" and they have seen unusual interest in their projects from Jewish residents living abroad. The Israeli real estate industry has high hopes that a large wave of immigration will materialize after the war.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 16, 2023.
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