ICEJ Opens New Year with Aliyah Camp for Jewish Youth
By: A. Howard Flower, ICEJ Aliyah Director
The war thrust upon Israel over recent months has left many Israelis traumatized, even while scores of Jews abroad are considering a move to the Jewish homeland to escape the rampant wave of antisemitism spreading worldwide. Already since that dark day last October 7, more than 4,000 Jewish Olim (newcomers) have arrived in Israel. As we start the new year, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem stands committed to helping with war relief efforts here in the Land of Israel and, just as importantly, helping to prepare and bring home as many Jewish immigrants as possible.
2024 Aliyah Camps Have Begun!
One way we do this is by sponsoring Aliyah camps. In January, we sponsored a winter Aliyah camp for Jewish youths in the Baltic States—73 Jewish youth between 12 and 17 years old eagerly packed their warmest clothes and attended the camp for a life-changing adventure in chilly Latvia!
The atmosphere was festive as the youth arrived and began mingling. The Jewish teens, including Ukrainian refugee children now living in Poland, Germany, and the Baltic countries, as well as Israeli youth temporarily living outside of Israel, gathered at an ICEJ-sponsored Aliyah winter camp on the shores of the Baltic Sea in Latvia between January 3 through 7. This winter camp, mostly conducted in Russian, was made possible through the generous support of Christian friends who gave through our Finnish, German, and USA branches.
Despite the freezing Latvian temperatures, which dipped as low as -20 degrees Celsius, the young people participated in various fun activities like a pajama party, navigating a web of strings, making new friends, playing in the snow, and, most importantly, learning about Israel while embracing their Jewish identity.
The Christian Embassy has a long history of assisting with Aliyah summer and winter camps. More than 10 years before the beginning of the 2014 conflict in Ukraine, the Jewish Agency approached the ICEJ to help with Aliyah preparations in areas far away from the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Since then, the ICEJ has assisted with dozens of similar Aliyah camps and other preparatory gatherings in many countries, including Ukraine, Finland, Russia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Surge in Aliyah Applications Despite War
These Aliyah camps play a crucial role in planting seeds deep within these Jewish youngsters for eventually making Aliyah to Israel. Although Jewish immigration to Israel has slowed somewhat since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas in early October, that stems from many prospective immigrants deciding to delay their Aliyah for a few months. The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) reports that many more people have opened Aliyah application files since October than over the same period the year before—and no one has canceled yet. The slowdown so far is less than what occurred during the first months of the Coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, after which Aliyah dramatically rebounded.
Following a series of Aliyah fairs in France in late December, the Jewish Agency announced that more than 1,200 French Jews opened Aliyah files in the last three months, compared with only 220 in the same period the previous year—an increase of 450 percent. The Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom also reported that in the last quarter of 2023, nearly 4,200 American Jews submitted immigration requests—an increase of 122 percent over the same period in 2022.
Recently, Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog boldly forecast that Israel could see as many as 1 million new Jewish immigrants in the next few years due to the mounting wave of antisemitism around the globe. At a special Aliyah conference in Florida last week, JAFI official Danielle Mor assured participants that the Agency could handle such a mass influx and was prepared to do just that.
In 2024, the ICEJ is committed to bringing as many Jewish immigrants home to Israel as possible and assisting them with fully integrating into Israeli society. Our Aliyah work first began in Vienna in 1980, and since then, we have assisted more than 175,000 Jews in coming home to Israel, including more than 5,000 in 2023, while helping many more throughout the integration phase.
Aliyah winter camps are just one way we are helping Jewish people prepare for returning to their biblical homeland. Please continue to give generously to our Aliyah efforts.