The attack on an aid ship off the coast of Gaza has been a PR nightmare for Israel. What remains to be seen is if it will make a dent in the number of Bay Area Jews emigrating there. Northern California's Jewish weekly j. reports that the number of Bay Area Jews moving to Israel has been going up.
According to j., last year, the San Francisco office of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Pacific Northwest processed immigration paperwork for 147 people. Six months into 2010, the office has already seen 150. At one point, Israel did not officially encourage emigration from the West to allay fears about dual loyalties of American Jews. But that policy was reversed in 2007.

The head of the office, Nir Wittenberg, says he’s stumped by the increase. “I don’t know what the reasons are,” he said, “but I do see an increase this year.”

It could be that the key factor is not religious fervor or love of the state of Israel but the down economy. The Jewish Agency offers a free flight to Israel (a one-way ticket, of course), relocation advice, career counseling, free Hebrew language classes, health care and even help with all of the forms. Nefesh B'Nefesh, an Israel-based agency, has helped 25,000 people move to Israel in the last eight years. Since 2008 both agencies have been working together.

On top of that, Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption hands out $4,000 per adult and $2,000 per child –– as well as free education through college and even huge reductions on property taxes.

Try getting that out of cash-strapped California.