(President Reuven Rivlin greets olim, archive photo)
At the initiative of MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp), head of the Lobby for US-Israel Relations, the Knesset marked on Wednesday 100 years of Jewish-American involvement in the Yishuv and the State of Israel.
During a deliberation of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, Committee Chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) said that American Jews have supported all the challenges Israel has faced with regards to security, the economy and Aliyah. ”During all the previous [Aliyah] operations, American Jews stood alongside the State of Israel to fulfil the dreams of thousands of Jews to arrive to the Land of Israel. Their contribution is crucial for the power of the State of Israel as a Jewish-democratic State,” he said.
MK Shai added that ”American Jews are a stable and wide bridge which supports Israeli-American relations at all times and in any situation. The community is the most important strategic asset in the relations between the two countries”.
It was revealed during the debate that Jewish-American donations to Israel have doubled over the past 25 years. In 2007 various Israeli organizations received around 2.1 billion dollars from the Jewish Agency and other organizations. Most of the donations made by the Jewish-American community are transferred to Israel (38%), and the financial support given by Jewish-Americans living in Israel amounts to over 2 billion dollars a year. In the past 40 years, some 115,000 Jews have made Aliyah to Israel from the US.
Click here to view PowerPoint presentation on Jewish American Aliyah to Israel
Dr. Esther Carmel-Hakim from the University of Haifa noted that one of major contributions of American-Jews was the immigration of youths to Israel. Some 15,000 youths were absorbed at the end of World War Two, and during the Aliyah from Yemen in `48, the Joint Distribution Committee funded temporary camps, professional training, education and food, as well as Aliyah operations such as Operation Moses, Operation Solomon in `91, and the immigration from the Soviet Union in the 90s.
Carmel-Hakim further noted that about 400,000 young volunteers arrived in Israel over the past 20 years as part of the Birthright ”Taglit” program. These volunteers, she said, strengthen the connection with American Jews.
Davidi Hermelin, Senior Advisor to the Director General at Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption noted that between the years 1972-2015 the immigration of American Jews to Israel intensified. During this period, 115,195 American Jews America made Aliyah, more than a quarter of them aged from infancy to 17 years old, and half were aged 18-35. The main cities that new immigrants choose to live in are Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Beit Shemesh, Ra`anana, Haifa, Netanya and others. In the past decade, 32,290 Americans have made Aliyah to Israel.