North American Jews making aliyah
For Jews who live in predominantly wealthy western countries, Israel is at best a holiday destination, not a place to live. Photo by Nir Keidar
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Immigration to Israel increased by 19 percent over the last twelve months, the Jewish Agency announced this week. During the Jewish year of 5771, which ends next Wednesday, about 21,300 Jews moved to Israel, up from 17,883 new immigrants in 5770.

According to Jewish Agency and Immigrant Absorption Ministry figures, most of the newcomers hail from the Former Soviet Union: about 8,290, or 39 percent. Aliyah from North America rose from 3,720 during 5770 to about 4,070, an increase of about 9 percent.

"This data demonstrates the continuing trend of rising aliyah and the strengthening of Zionism," Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said. "In recent years we have seen consistent aliyah, and at this important time the state of Israel must work to maintain the trend and continue to encourage Jews in the Diaspora to immigrate to Israel."

American-Israeli sociologist Chaim Waxman credited good times in Israel as a pull factor for North American Jews. "I would imagine that the increase in North American aliyah has to do with the positive economic situation in Israel versus a negative U.S. economy," Waxman told Anglo File yesterday. "Despite the social protests this summer, the economic picture here looks much better than in America. Young people who think about where to start their careers will go where there are more economic opportunities, and here especially the possibilities for start-ups look much more optimistic."

Israel is also particularly attractive to the growing number of Americans who have been to Israel before and have close family members here, Waxman said. "As the years go by, more Jews have studied in Israel or participated in an Israel program and have close kin here. It's still a small percentage, but is has increased."

The Jewish Agency and ministry statistics also show that most immigrants are young. Among the newcomers who arrived here between January and July, about 62 percent are under the age of 34.

According to both the Jewish Agency and ministry figures, aliyah from France jumped 4 percent to approximately 2,100 newcomers, while the numbers from Latin America slightly dropped from 1,380 in 5770 to 1,360 this year. Newcomers also arrived here from remote places such as Hong Kong, Honduras, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Monaco, Suriname, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Angola, Japan, Malta, Congo, South Korea and Nicaragua, the Jewish Agency reported.