Jerusalem, Israel - Oct. 11, 2021 - Sunday afternoon, President Isaac Herzog and Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tameno-Shete jointly presented the “Minister of Integration Award to New Olim for the Exceptional Contributions to Society and the State of Israel” in an award ceremony at the Beit Hanasi in Jerusalem, Israel. 

Aliyah to Israel has increased by 31% in 2021, with 20,360 Olim arriving compared to 15,598 during the corresponding period last year, according to a report released by the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The figures come ahead of Yom HaAliyah (Aliyah Day) - a national holiday on October 13th, which celebrates immigrants to Israel from all over the world. The Yom HaAliyah, which was established by the Knesset in 2016, is celebrated on the seventh day of the Jewish month of Cheshvan to coincide with the Torah portion of Lech Lecha, in which Hashem commands Avraham to go to the Land of Israel. The aim of the holiday is to celebrate the development of Israel as a multicultural society and emphasize the importance of Aliyah.

Israel has continued seeing a dramatic rise in Aliyah despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and The Jewish Agency ensuring that immigration continues despite the difficulty and limitations on international travel.

This year, five prizes were awarded to Olim in a variety of fields: society and community, medicine, care and welfare, art, science, engineering, and sport. 

President Herzog spoke about different waves of Jewish immigration to Israel and said: “Sometimes the State of Israel looks like an archaeological mound, built layer by layer with waves of aliyah: from the first waves of immigration through clandestine campaigns during the British Mandate period and further waves of immigration to the State of Israel from all around the world. Each layer of immigration is built on top of another; each layer of immigration adds height and richness to the one before it. The most recent layer is impressive, some might say extraordinary, the wave of thousands of immigrants at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.”

President Herzog addressed the great courage required to make aliyah and the challenges facing all new immigrants: “The tough social distancing, difficulties with aviation and mobility, quarantine, language, and culture—all these presented major difficulties, and yet you came in your masses, and I, and we, are all so proud of you for doing so.”

Finally, President Herzog addressed the prize winners and Minister Tameno-Shete and said: “It is a true pleasure to host you here in this residence, and so I want first and foremost to thank my dear friend Minister Pnina Tameno-Shete for this important and welcome initiative, and for her leadership of the ministry, taking it to new heights. My dear Pnina, who knows better than you what groundbreaking aliyah looks like. Your personal story is a model for all of us, a model of determination, Zionism, a sense of mission, and love of your people, land, and state. And you, dear prize winners, who despite the difficulties of making aliyah stormed ahead, straight up a whole new level, to the top of society here in Israel. With excellence, with devotion, with innovation, and with daring. Today we want to tell you: it is a privilege for the State of Israel to have you. It is a privilege for all of us to have you. It is so good that you have come home. It is so good that you have made this house even more beautiful. It is too late to wish you success because you have already succeeded, so I shall only say that I hope you continue to see blessings through your work, and may we all be blessed through you.”

Also speaking before the presentation of the awards, Minister Tameno-Shete added: “Congratulations to the groundbreaking new immigrants chosen by the panel to win the prize this year. This is the second year in which we have hosted this prizegiving ceremony, together with the President’s Residence, for immigrants who have made a significant contribution to Israeli society and to the state, an event that has become a tradition. This year’s prize winners, each in his or her own field, are inspiring and serve as proof of the important contribution of aliyah to the flourishing and success of our country in all walks of life.”

Also participating in the event were World Zionist Organization Chairman and Acting Chairman of the Jewish Agency Yaakov Hagoel, former Mossad chief and chairman of the judges’ panel Efraim Halevy, and the executive director and co-founder of Nefesh b’Nefesh Rabbi Yehoshua Fass.

The awardees were individually featured in a short video presentation where all spoke in Hebrew. 'Patience' was a theme as their advice from their immigration stories and experience. Yosef Abramowitz who made aliyah from the United States was awarded for his work in solar energy fields. The other honored Olim were Dr. Natalie Akun, linquistiics, from France, Prof. Melana Cohen-Cymberknoh from South America, for medicine, Dege Feder, music and dance from Ethiopia, and Sergei Vaisburg, Olympic coach from Ukraine.

More than 3,340,000 immigrants have made Aliyah to Israel since the state’s establishment. This was the first of multiple events throughout the week to celebrate the contributions of Olim to the country.