Seven hundred new olim from Brazil are set to move to Israel by the end of 2016 marking a significant leap in the annual number of immigrants hailing from the Land of Samba, according to figures released by the Jewish Agency.
The figures represent a particularly stark increase when compared to the previous two years which saw 496 Brazilians move to Israel in 2015 and 280 in 2014.
“I have arrived at the home I looked for my entire life,” Rafael Satran, 27, told Ynet on Sunday evening.
Rafael, who moved to Israel earlier this year, is currently completing his doctorate in Environmental Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.
He grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Manaus and explained that throughout his life he always felt connected with Israel. “I went to a Jewish school and was educated in a Zionist youth movement and I was always extremely connected with Jewish and Israeli culture,” he said.
In the past, Rafael had visited Israel and actually lived there for two years during which he learned in a Jewish Agency institute and even volunteered to work on a Kibbutz. “It is hard being an oleh. It isn’t easy to be alone without family, without the language but I feel that this is the place I am supposed to be,” he added.
The publication of the statistics coincided with a visit by Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky to the South American nation. “The Jewish community of Brazil is Zionist and warm with deep bonds with Israel,” Sharansky commented. “Since the establishment of Israel more than 15,000 people have moved there from Brazil and they have contributed to the character of Israeli society and its strength.”
Three years ago, the average rate of aliyah from Brazil stood at 200 people per year. According to a Jewish umbrella organization in Brazil, the Jewish population stands at around 120,000 people, which is the second largest in South America, second only to Argentina. Sao Paulo is home to 55,000 Jews while Rio de Janeiro is home to around 30,000. Ten thousand Jews reside in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil.
The new boost in the number of olim moving to Israel appears to indicate that an earlier governmental initiative to stimulate further immigration from Brazil is paying dividends. Indeed, in February this year The Knesset Committee for Aliyah and Absorption allocated NIS 1.18 million to encourage the immigration of Brazilian Jews to Israel.