Surge in aliyah from UK due to increase in Jew-hate

The head of WZO said that by the end of this year, three times as many people may have moved to Israel than in 2023


(l-r) Chairman of the WZO Yaakov Hagoel, Israeli ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely, singer Matisyahu and head of the WZO's delegation to Europe Matan Bar Noy at Sunday's event at KInloss in Finchley, north-west London (Photo:Ofek Avshalom)

The World Zionist Organisation believes that aliyah from the UK in 2024 could more than double from last year amid the rise in antisemitism since October 7.

While 391 Brits made their home in Israel in 2023, there has been a notable surge since autumn with 226 emigrating in the six months from October.

The local increase in aliyah reflects a “global phenomenon” said the chairman of the WZO Yaakov Hagoel, who expects that by the end of the year the eventual number may be triple that of 2023.

Since October, Israel has welcomed 18,000 olim from across the Jewish world as the fallout from conflict in the Middle East reverberated elsewhere.

Over the past 15 to 20 years, aliyah from Britain has averaged around 500 or so annually.

Golan himself lost a member of his family in the Hamas pogrom, his brother-in-law, Assaf Schlesinger, a paramedic, who was murdered at the Supernova Festival.

The WZO leader was paying a brief visit to London for a concert by the American Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu at Kinloss on Sunday evening - which was part of a new drive to promote aliyah.

Matan Bar Noy, the head of the WZO’s delegation to Europe who arrived to take up the post in London five months ago, said: “We understand from our experience in the UK that a lot of our efforts to explain to young adults why they should consider aliyah were not really a success because they were not coming to the exhibitions on aliyah.”

So along with other partners, the WZO decided to try something different with a cultural event headlined by a well-known performer.

The response was “amazing,” Bar Noy said. “We’d planned for 300, but we had 700 - it was sold out.”

While Hagoel was candid in saying that it’s “not easy” to relocate to Israel, he claims it’s much easier for young people and they can expect to integrate within a year or two.

As olim chadashim, (new immigrants), young adults can enjoy benefits, such as taking their first year of a university course in English and graduating for free.

At the same time, they can help to boost the morale and the economy of the “Start-Up Nation”, which has taken a hit, owing to the cost of the current war. Israel is “a strong and an amazing country”, Hagoel said. “The options there? The sky’s the limit.”

The aliyah potential from the UK is “huge”, Bar Noy said. The current rate is “nothing compared to other places in the world”.

As well as increasing awareness of aliyah opportunities, the WZO is the leading provider of Ivrit tuition in the UK, running 80 classes across the country.

It is also looking to invest in more Israeli teachers for Jewish schools - so far it supports six in the UK and Ireland, a couple in Leeds having just left.

But recruiting teachers is an issue because of the climate of hostility towards Israel. “Teachers from Israel don’t want to come,” said Hagoel.

The WZO also sponsored the Festival of Spoken Ivrit here earlier this year, which attracted estimated audiences of 5,000 children and youth.

It also runs a Sunday morning school for 150 primary-aged Israeli children in London to ensure they keep up their Hebrew.

The WZO representatives said they were “open to collaboration” with the Zionist Federation here, which is looking to revive activities after a dormant period to sort out its finances.

The WZO has its own office here in Golders Green, separate from that of the Jewish Agency. When asked whether it might be an idea for all organisations to share a single HQ, Hagoel laughed. “After the Moshiah comes.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive