Aliyah Made Simple (For South Africans)
South Africa has emerged as a vanguard in advancing the Aliyah process on multiple fronts, notably through its monthly Aliyah flights and the annual Aliyah Expo. These initiatives, alongside similar endeavors, streamline the Israeli bureaucratic procedures for South African Jews even before they set foot in the country.
Consequently, it comes as no surprise that the annual Aliyah figures from South Africa show a consistent upward trend. Estimates suggest that approximately 1% of the South African Jewish community embarks on the Aliyah journey each year.
Best of all? These Olim Chadashim, or new immigrants, come from all demographics and all walks of life, enriching the Anglo community in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Tel Mond, and other Israeli cities.
Suppose you also want to join this vibrant community. If so, this guide is for you. It’ll walk you through every step of the Aliyah process from South Africa, making your transition smoother and more informed.
Who Can Make Aliyah From South Africa?
Before diving into the details, let’s get the basics out of the way – who can make Aliyah from South Africa?
The Law of Return is pretty straightforward: every Jew from South Africa (and beyond) is entitled to return to Israel. These rights also extend to people with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent, as well as the immediate family members (spouses and children) of the South African Jews.
Making Aliyah From South Africa: A Step-by-Step Guide
As previously discussed, South Africa has numerous initiatives to streamline the Aliyah process. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the country also has a robust organization with decades of experience helping South African Jews settle in Israel. The organization in question is the South African Zionist Federation (Israel), nicknamed Telfed.
Contact Telfed, and you’ll be guided every step of the way before and after reaching Israel.
If, however, you want to go straight to the source, The Jewish Agency for Israel, this guide will teach you what to do step by step.
Step 1: Aliyah Application
To start the Aliyah process, you must open an Aliyah file. You can do so by calling The Jewish Agency’s Global Center from South Africa using a toll-free number (0800 996 886) or email ([email protected]).
Alternatively, you can get in touch with the agency’s local branches in Johannesburg or Cape Town.
The agency’s Aliyah experts will open an online file and guide you through the documentation needed.
Step 2: Gathering and Submitting Documentation
When opening your Aliyah file, you’ll receive a comprehensive list of all the documents you need to gather based on your specific circumstances. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- A valid passport
- Four official passport photos (per family member)
- A joint photo of all individuals making Aliyah
- A full birth certificate
- A certificate of marital status (e.g., a marriage certificate, a divorce order, or a single-status certificate)
- Proof of Jewish identity (e.g., a letter from a recognized rabbi confirming your Judaism, the birth certificates of Jewish parents or grandparents, and a Bar or Bat Mitzvah certificate)
- A Police Clearance Certificate
- A Health Declaration form (provided in the process and completed by you)
- International movement records listing your entries and exits from Israel in the past seven years
Remember that all public record documents originating in South Africa must be authenticated before being used in Israel. This process typically involves the Apostille stamp.
Also, when turning in your documents, only use copies. The originals will be reviewed in person during your interview with a Shaliach, i.e., a representative of The Jewish Agency in South Africa.
Step 3: The Interview
If all the submitted documents are in order, you’ll have a meeting with your local Aliyah Shaliach. This meeting has several purposes.
One, the Shaliach will interview you, covering some of these topics:
- Your Jewish background
- Marital status
- Israeli past
- Motivation for Aliyah
- Post-Aliyah plans (absorption planning)
- Employment history
- Health condition
The agency’s representative will also review the original copies of your documents to ensure authenticity and completeness. Of course, these documents will be returned to you post-meeting.
Lastly, the Shaliach will explain all the Aliyah benefits to you, including how to apply for them before landing. If approved, you can collect the first installment of the Absorption Basket (Sal Klita), the financial assistance for new immigrants, right at the airport.
Step 4: Receiving Approval
At this point, you’ve done everything necessary for the Aliyah process. Now, it’s up to the Israeli authorities to approve your Aliyah application. Hopefully, you’ll receive an email, popularly referred to as the “Mazal Tov” letter, notifying you of your success. The email will also contain information on your next moves, including obtaining the Aliyah visa.
Step 5: Obtaining the Aliyah Visa
As soon as your Aliyah application is approved, you should start the process of obtaining your immigration visa. The exact procedure for this vital task is in the email above. Still, your local Shaliach will also be able to assist you with obtaining a visa.
But keep one thing in mind – this process can take a while (approximately 18 working days). That’s why it’s prudent to commence it immediately, at least one month before the anticipated Aliyah date. Of course, if you already have an Israeli passport, you can skip Step 5 and move on to booking your Aliyah flight.
Step 6: Arranging Your Aliyah Flight
As previously mentioned, South Africa organizes monthly Aliyah flights, boarded by 20 to 40 South African Jews. All you need to do is inform your Aliyah consultant of your preferred departure date, and they’ll coordinate your travel arrangements.
Like all Olim, you’ll be entitled to a free, one-way ticket to Israel and an extra piece of luggage. Make sure to store all the Aliyah documents in your hand luggage, as you’ll be required to present them at the airport.
Step 7: Registering as a Resident
As soon as you land, you’ll be escorted to the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration’s Ben Gurion Airport branch. Here, you’ll be processed by the Ministry’s representatives, who’ll review your documentation again.
Afterward, you’ll be given the following documents:
- A temporary Teudat Zehut (Identification Card)
- Teudat Oleh (Immigration Card)
- A registration form for the Kupat Cholim (healthcare service provider) of your choice
- A form for opening a bank account
If you’ve already lived in Israel, you won’t be processed at the airport but directed to a local branch of the Ministry of Interior. Remember to schedule an appointment before going there.
Step 8: Obtaining a Passport and an ID Card
The ID card you’re given at the airport is only valid for 90 days. So, before these 90 days expire, you’ll need to make an appointment with the Ministry of Interior to receive a permanent Teudat Zehut. You can also use this appointment to apply for an Israeli passport, as your South African one will only serve you for 90 days. You can apply for an Israeli passport sooner, but you’ll have to sign a document waiving your right to renounce Israeli citizenship.
Step 9: Arranging Your Life in Israel
With Step 8, your Aliyah process has officially concluded, and you are now an Israeli citizen. Mazal Tov! Now, you can relax and gradually tackle the remaining red tape and tasks that will make your life in Israel comfortable and fulfilling.
Let’s say you’ve taken care of housing, work, and schooling your children (if you have them) before arriving in Israel. If so, here are a few more aspects to consider:
- Opening a bank account
- Obtaining an Israeli driver’s license
- Registering for a Hebrew ulpan (intensive language course)
- Contacting the local authorities regarding the local property tax (Arnona) reduction
- Connecting with South African Olim
- Setting up your internet, mobile and home phones, and television, preferably with an Anglo provider like TCS Telecom
The Wait Is Over
Many Jewish people fear the Aliyah process thanks to misconceptions that it must take over a year and is filled with bureaucracy and language challenges. But as long as you know what you’re doing (and get help along the way), this complex process will be nothing but exciting and rewarding. And remember – however long it takes, what waits for you on the other end makes it worth it.