BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Travel restrictions and lockdowns due to the global pandemic didn’t stop Argentine Jews from making the move to Israel last year, as aliyah rose in 2020 by 26 percent.
Some 567 Argentines moved to the Jewish state last year, up from 460 in 2019. In the same period, worldwide aliyah dropped 40%, to 20,000 from 33,247, according to data from the Jewish Agency for Israel.
It’s a trend that appears to be continuing, as Jews in Argentina are increasingly taking Hebrew courses with an eye toward moving to Israel.
The World Zionist Organization’s classes, managed by Israel’s Department of Aliyah Promotion, had a nearly 50% increase in participation in 2020 over the previous year, to 1,300 students from 900. Reconfigured online courses launched this year to manage the high demand are proving popular, with 2,000 students.
“Israel is an attractive country,” Alejandro Mellincovsky, the head of Aliyah Promotion in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Even before the pandemic it was a very attractive country, but now even more, when you see the performance of the vaccination process and the beginning of the recovery.”
He added that the trend is “clear and accelerating.”
Meanwhile, Argentina registered an inflation rate of approximately 36% in 2020.
Prior to the pandemic, the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires fielded about 40 new requests each month for economic assistance. Since the COVID quarantine, the figure has soared to more than 500 — an increase of 1,200%.
Buenos Aires is home to about 159,000 Jews, according to the 2018 World Jewish Population study by expert Sergio Della Pergola, with Argentina having the largest Jewish population in Latin America.
Shira Denise, an artist, will move to Israel in a couple of months with her husband, Adrian “Avi” Mac, a human resources professional, and their sons, aged 5 and 2.
In her song “Ra’anana,” with the music of “Havana” by Camila Cabello — in English, Spanish and Hebrew — she expressed her dream to live in Israel, to be part of the series “Fauda” and, even before her departure, said that half her heart is in Ra’anana and the other in her native Argentina.
Her video went viral in Argentina and was featured on Israeli TV.