Sharp Drop in Emigration From France and Ukraine to Israel in First Months of 2016

Jewish Agency officials cannot explain 16 percent drop over last year, although they expected aliyah boom to taper off.

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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Jewish immigrants from Ukraine arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport, December 22, 2014. Credit: AFP
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

A significant downturn in immigration to Israel was registered in the first four months of the year, according to Jewish Agency figures obtained by Haaretz.

The drop was most pronounced in Ukraine and France, the two countries that have been the leading suppliers of immigrants to Israel in recent years. Sources in the Jewish Agency said they had no explanations for the sudden downturn.

The figures show that in January-April 2016, a total of 7,086 immigrants arrived in the country, down 16 percent from the same period in the previous year. The number of immigrants from Ukraine (which includes a rather insignificant number from Molodava as well) reached 1,778 during this period – a drop of one-third compared with the same period last year. (In April alone, 315 immigrants arrived in Israel from Ukraine, less than half the number that came in the same month last year.)

In January-April 2016, a total of 1,074 immigrants from France arrived in Israel, down 30 percent from the same period last year. Still, the Jewish Agency estimates that by the end of 2016, a total of 6,000 French immigrants will arrive in the country – less than in 2015, but still more than from any other Western country.

According to government officials, who asked not to be quoted, immigration from France had been expected to taper off after the big boom of recent years. The significant drop in numbers starting this year, they said, does not indicate a failure on the part of Israel to absorb the newcomers.

Rising anti-Semitism and a depressed economy had been the main factors behind the surge in immigration from France to Israel in recent years. Many French Jews have also relocated to Britain, Canada and the United States.

Russia has also been a key source of immigration to Israel in recent years. In the first four months of the year, the number of immigrants arriving from there totaled 2,191 – a slight increase of 3 percent over last year.

A total of 517 immigrants from the U.S. arrived in Israel during January-April 2016 – a slight increase of 2 percent compared with last year.