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Immigration to Israel Bounces Back in 2017

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Immigrants from the United States arrive in Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport.
Immigrants from the United States arrive in Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport.Credit: JINI

Immigration to Israel rebounded slightly in 2017, thanks to an increase in new arrivals from the former Soviet Union, particularly Ukraine.

The number of immigrants arriving from France, however, continued to plunge, after peaking two years ago.

According to estimates obtained by Haaretz, an expected 28,400 immigrants will have arrived in the country by the end of this year – 5 percent more than last year. These estimates are based on figures compiled by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

In 2016, immigration dropped by 13 percent because of a sharp downturn in the number of Jews arriving from France. That followed several record years, fueled by a combination of rising anti-Semitism and an economic downturn in France. The Israeli government had forecast that the exodus would continue, but French Jews have clearly preferred to stay put.

A considerable number of French Jews who immigrated to Israel in recent years have moved back because of relocation difficulties.

The estimates show that 3,400 immigrants from France are expected to arrive in Israel by the end of this year – about 28 percent fewer than in 2016. A record 7,500 immigrants from France arrived in 2015.

By contrast, the number of immigrants coming from Ukraine is expected to reach 6,700 by the end of this year – up 14 percent from the previous year. The number of immigrants from Russia is expected to remain more or less steady at about 7,000 this year. If these numbers pan out, Russia would be the single largest source of immigrants to Israel for the second year running.

Also notable this year was the continued increase in immigration from Brazil. Many Jews have been fleeing Latin America’s largest country over the past two years for economic reasons as well as concerns for their personal safety in wake of growing crime. An estimated 670 Brazilian Jews will arrive in Israel by the end of this year, compared with 630 last year and 460 the previous year.

Immigration from the United States is expected to remain steady, with about 2,900 American Jews making Israel their home this year. Speculation that Donald Trump’s presidential victory might cause American Jews – the majority of whom vote Democrat – to relocate to Israel has proven groundless. About 2,900 American Jews will have moved to Israel by the end of this year.

Asked to comment, Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver said: “As every year, we had ups and downs in 2017, but in terms of immigration, it was a successful year.”

“I am convinced,” she continued, “that immigration is a strategic asset for the state of Israel, and therefore, I intend to do my best to increase the budget of my ministry. The more resources we can invest in encouraging and promoting immigration and absorption, the stronger Israel will be.”

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