Social Issues

Jewish Latin Americans migrate to Israel amid pandemic, instability

Jerusalem, Feb 14 (EFE).- Luis Cruz’s Mexican taco restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem has become a meeting point for his Latin American compatriots who, like him, have left their countries to migrate to Israel.

While the migration of Jews to Israel, also known as ‘Aliyah’, has decreased over the last two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, the influx of Latin Americans to the Holy Land has notably increased.

Although compared to other diasporas the Latin American community in Israel remains small, some 2,330 emigrated to Israel in 2021 compared to over 1,750 the previous year, according to Jewish Agency data.

Arrivals from Argentina and Mexico increased by 55% while arrivals from Brazil increased by 72%, the agency added.

Religious and cultural identity plays a role in Latin American Aliyah, but the growing dissatisfaction with governments, their management of the pandemic and economic insecurity are the main drivers behind the migration boom, according to Shmuel Kornblit, founder of Masuah, a volunteering organization that supports immigrants.

“The coronavirus pandemic was the final trigger,” Nicolás Grinberg, a 33-year-old Argentinean who emigrated to Israel in 2021, tells Efe.

Grinberg is one of the many young and educated South Americans who have left their homelands in search of job stability, security and better living conditions.

“I wanted to go out on the street peacefully, feeling safe, raise a family and not be afraid,” he adds.

After being housed in state facilities and taking a five-month intensive Hebrew course paid for by the state, Grinberg now lives in Tel Aviv where he works for a cybersecurity company.

The prosperous economy and tech companies like the one Grinberg works for are other factors attracting migrants to Israel.

“This is perhaps the best economic moment in the country’s history,” says Kornblit.

The migrants’ ties to Israel, especially for the young, are further deepened with compulsory military service.

After serving the Israeli army, 23-year old Michael Vital has chosen to reconnect with his Mexican roots working at Cruz’s taco restaurant, even though he does not plan on returning to Mexico.

“I will stay in Israel,” he says. EFE


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