The boost in Anglo immigration in 2009 will not help ensure Israel's survival as a Western and Jewish democracy over the next two decades, a leading economist told an astonished crowd of lone immigrant soldiers on Wednesday. "It feels strange to say this to people who chose Israel, but our current trend means fewer people will come here and more will leave as our position deteriorates," Professor Dan Ben David from Tel Aviv University told the hundreds of soldiers at the Zionist Organization of America House who came to a symposium on their contribution to Israeli society. "Immigration alone will not prevent our current decline".
This year, 3,814 North Americans immigrated to Israel - the most since 1983, according to Nefesh B'Nefesh. Some 350 South Africans brought aliyah from that country to a 10-year peak, while 835 British arrivals upped immigration from the U.K. by 34 percent. Total Anglo immigration rose in 2009 by 17 percent, to 5,254 out of a total of world total of 16,244 people, according to the Jewish Agency. But these figures - 17 percent higher than last year's total - will have a negligible impact on internal degenerative processes occurring within Israeli society, according to Ben David. He told the crowd that Israeli society's situation is "unsustainable" because of a "growing group which does not work, does not study and does not produce."
The Israel-born scholar said the rise in people living under the poverty line - the rate of which rose from 25 percent in 1980 to 33 percent today "were not affected by a highly skilled immigration of one million people in less than a decade." Noting that fewer than half of Israeli pupils will be secular by 2001, he said, "The topping on this crappy cake is that scholastic achievements of this secular system are among the lowest in the West."
At the Jewish Agency event - which celebrated five years since the inauguration of the Wings program dedicated to preparing lone soldiers for civilian life - Ben David said that while "some Israelis will stay here no matter what, most of us have a price and a breaking point, and will leave."
These trends are still reversible through educational and labor legislation, according to Ben David, who ran for the Knesset in 2006 with Kadima - which based its socioeconomic platform on his research.
Eli Cohen, head of the Jewish Agency's Aliyah Department, commented that the hour-long lecture "showed how important the Wings project is, and how important philanthropy is," referring to external support of the program for lone immigrant soldiers, who number some 2,500.
Cohen added in jest: "I hope the photographer here didn't focus too much on this lecture."
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