French-Jewish Immigration to Israel Drops 25 Percent in First Half of Year

Despite expectations of a 'Trump effect' on aliyah, American Jews staying put

New immigrants to Israel are welcomed by Nefesh B'Nefesh at Ben Gurion Airport tarmac in August, 2016.
Shahar Azran

The downward trend in immigration from France to Israel continued in the first half of this year, but it was more than offset by an increase in new arrivals to the country from the former Soviet Union.

Jewish Agency figures show that from January to June 2017, 1,446 French Jews moved to Israel – a drop of 25 percent from the same period last year. Overall, 12,092 immigrants landed in Israel in the first half of this year, representing a slight increase of 3 percent. The 2016 total was 28,172.

Following several years of rapid growth, the number of French Jews immigrating to Israel peaked at more than 7,000 in 2015. Since then, the numbers have been steadily dropping, though they remain high compared with periods in the more distant past. Among other factors, the recent downturn has been attributed to the difficulties many French Jews confront finding employment commensurate with their skills when they arrive in Israel, as well as challenges learning Hebrew.

The number of newcomers arriving from Russia rose 14 percent in the first half of 2017 to 3,734 – making it the single largest source of immigration to Israel during this period. Another 2,994 immigrants arrived from Ukraine – an increase of 7 percent from last year.

Expectations that large numbers of American Jews, disappointed by the election of Donald Trump, might pick and move to Israel never panned out, the figures show. Only 880 American Jews made aliyah in January-June, down 9 percent from the previous year.

Responding to the political unrest in their country, Turkish Jews continued to immigrate to Israel at a rapid pace in the first half of this year. The figures show that in January-June, 203 Turkish Jews arrived in the country – more than triple the number in the same period last year.