JERUSALEM – Israel is continuing to receive immigrants despite worldwide border closures and a huge drop in population movement due to the pandemic.
Many have emigrated from Latin America which is expected to be one of the hardest hit areas economically by the COVID-19 crisis.
Danielle Tarnovsky lived in Rio de Janeiro until three weeks ago.
The Brazilian city has seen a rising number of deaths from coronavirus as its post-pandemic economic horizon has darkened.
Now she is at an immigration center in the quiet city of Naharia, in northern Israel, where she arrived with her 15-year-old son in search of a better future.
“We came to the conclusion that it was no longer possible to live in Brazil, among other things due to violence, instability and uncertainty regarding the future,” she tells EFE.
Brazil is the second-worst affected country in the world by the outbreak, with more than 739,500 confirmed cases and 38,400 deaths, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University.
After 10 years working as a secretary, Tarnovsky packed her bags and moved to Israel where she plans to work doing “whatever it takes.”
She had never been to the country before and does not speak English or Hebrew.
She says her priority was her son’s future as well as moving to a country where COVID-19 has not been as severe.
Israel has eased almost all of the restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the contagion, whereas Tarnovsky spent two months in lockdown in Brazil and was not able to go to the supermarket.
She is one of thousands of immigrants who have arrived in Israel since the start of the pandemic.
They have done so through Israel’s Law of Return which gives Jewish people anywhere in the world the right to obtain citizenship and settle in the country.
Between January and April this year 6,368 people moved to the country, 36 percent less than the same period in 2019, according to figures from the Jewish Agency for Israel, which coordinates the arrival of immigrants.
There was only a decrease of one percent among Latin American countries and for Argentina, which has the largest Jewish community in the region, the number increased by almost 30 percent.
Argentine Nicolas Galer, a 27-year-old industrial engineer, was part of a group who arrived last week.
He says he made the move because he was aware of the severe blow that the coronavirus could cause to Argentina’s economy and has already found work for a major local company.
“I was very surprised how they received me when I arrived, they were really waiting for us,” he adds.
“As soon as we landed, they gave us food and water, the procedures were very fast and in less than two hours we were already at the hotel.”
He speaks to EFE from the Dan Panorama, a four-star hotel in Tel Aviv, where he will stay for a mandatory two-week quarantine, like everyone who arrives from abroad.
All Jewish immigrants are able to access free Hebrew classes, a monthly stipend of more than 600 euros for the first six months and tax exemptions.
Argentine Mark Mysler, 19, was on the same flight but moved to Israel for a different purpose, to serve in the armed forces.
He says the impact of the virus in his country accelerated his move.
“Because of the progress in the situation in Argentina where the peak of infections is expected to arrive in the coming months and it seems that the situation is not going to improve, I decided to come here now,” he tells EFE.
The Jewish Agency reports that enquiries from Argentina have more than doubled in recent weeks.
Israel, which has received Jews from all over the world since its creation in 1948, has become an attractive option for communities in some of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic.