The government approved on Sunday a multi-million shekel emergency plan aimed at encouraging immigration from European countries as fears of anti-Semitism grow amid a wave of deadly attacks on Jewish institutions on the continent.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver presented the NIS 180 million ($46 million) pan-ministerial plan to the weekly cabinet meeting.
Three countries at the top of the list for the program are France, Ukraine, and Belgium.
“We are preparing for a wave of [Jewish immigration] from Europe; we are calling for a wave of mass aliya from Europe. I want to tell all the Jews of Europe, and Jews wherever they may be: ‘Israel is the home of every Jew… Israel awaits you with open arms,’” Netanyahu said hours earlier.
The plan is a greatly reduced version of an original NIS 1.2 billion ($320 million) proposal by Landver that was rejected by the Justice Minister on ground that it was too large a project to approve during the run up to general elections, the Hebrew media Ynet website reported.
Israel is scheduled to vote for a new parliament on March 17.
Jewish communities in Europe have become increasingly fearful in the wake of a series attacks, the most recent of which was a shooting outside a synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark, that killed a Jewish volunteer security guard.
Last month, four Jews were shot dead at a kosher grocery shop in Paris during a three-day shooting spree by three Islamic gunmen who killed another 13 people, including nearly a dozen staffers at the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.
All three gunmen were eventually shot dead by police.
In Belgium a shooting attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24, 2014, left four people dead. In Ukraine, an ongoing war with Russian-backed separatists has caught the country’s Jewish community in the crossfire. Last week a Jewish woman was killed when a rocket hit her home near Donetsk, two days after a shell slammed into a Jewish center in Kramatorsk but did not explode.
Following the Paris shootings Netanyahu called on French Jews to immigrate to Israel, also known as making aliya.
Other Israeli leaders including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett also made similar statements following the Paris attacks.
According to the Ynet report figures from the Immigration and Absorption Ministry show a significant increase in interest for making aliyah, especially in France and the Ukraine. In France there were 69,000 inquiries during 2013, and 84,00 in 2014, and 11,000 during the last month alone.
In Ukraine there were 13,000 inquires during 2013, 15,000 in 2014, and more than 1,300 in the last month.