Sharp Downturn in Jewish Immigration From U.S. to Israel

Despite fears of surging anti-Semitism, figures obtained by Haaretz reveal that predicted increase in U.S. immigration to Israel in first quarter of 2017 fails to materialize.

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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Jewish new immigrants from North America, who are making Aliyah and who plan to join the Israeli army, walking down the stairs as their airplane lands at Ben Gurion airport, August 12, 2014.
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

Fears of rising anti-Semitism have not sparked an uptick in immigration from the United States to Israel, as some Israeli leaders had secretly hoped. In fact, quite the opposite.

Figures obtained by Haaretz show that in the first three months of 2017, aliyah from the United States dropped by 25 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. All told, according to these Ministry of Immigrant Absorption figures, only 309 immigrants from the United States arrived in Israel in January-March.

In recent months, there had been speculation that American Jews – either concerned by the growing number of anti-Semitic incidents in their country or by the election of Donald Trump – might take flight for Israel.

An even more dramatic downturn was evident in immigration from another country that has been a major supplier of newcomers to Israel in recent years: France. The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption figures show that aliyah from France – the home of Europe’s largest Jewish community – was down 29 percent in the first quarter. A total of 559 French Jews moved to Israel in that period – still relatively high compared with other countries but far below the levels registered in previous years.

Altogether, immigration dipped 6 percent in January-March, with a total of 5,311 Jews from around the world relocating to Israel during that period. The only country which saw a relatively large increase in the number of its nationals leaving for Israel was Russia: The figures show that 1,763 Russians immigrated to Israel in the first quarter – up 10 percent from the corresponding period in 2016. Immigration from Ukraine – another large provider of olim to Israel in recent years – was down 15 percent in January-March.

In percentage terms, the largest increase registered during this period was in immigration from Turkey – another country where Jews have been feeling unsafe in recent years. According to the figures, 74 Turkish Jews moved to Israel in January-March – almost triple last year’s quarterly number.

In 2016, according to the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, a total of 26,900 immigrants arrived in country – down 13 percent from the previous year. The number of immigrants arriving from the United States last year showed a slight decline of 4 percent, reaching a total of 2,933.