Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, a total of 31,066 immigrants from these two countries have arrived in Israel, according to figures published on Wednesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
That is more than all the immigrants who arrived in Israel in 2021, which in itself was a relatively good year for aliyah, coming after a lengthy period in which travel to Israel was made difficult by the global pandemic.
Although Israel had been gearing up for a major wave of aliyah from Ukraine when the war broke out, the CBS figures show that far more Russians have actually immigrated than Ukrainians. While the Ukrainians coming to Israel have been mainly motivated by fears for their personal safety, the Russians appear to be driven by a desire to flee the growing totalitarianism in their country.
Between February 24 and the end of July, 12,175 immigrants from Ukraine and 18,891 immigrants from Russia arrived in Israel. These figures refer only to those individuals who have officially been granted immigrant status. Thousands of Russians, it is believed, have been arriving in Israel as tourists since the war began with plans to apply for a change in their status that will allow them to stay in the country permanently.
Almost half the immigrants from Ukraine came in the first two months of the war. Since then, aliyah from Russia has more than outpaced that from Ukraine. Another factor behind the disparity in numbers is that the Ukrainian government, with rare exceptions, is not allowing adult men to leave, which means that aliyah from Ukraine, as opposed to Russia, often involves tough decisions about splitting families apart.
Among the immigrants who have arrived in Israel from Ukraine since the beginning of the war, an overwhelming majority of 63 percent have been women. Aliyah from Russia, by contrast, has been more evenly split between the genders.
- If encouraging aliyah is racist, we'll have to live with it
- Jewish Agency’s Russia problem started long before Ukraine war
- 'Aliyah Express': Israel to Ease Immigration Process for Jewish Ukrainian Refugees
The Law of Return stipulates that any individual with at least one Jewish grandparent is eligible for aliyah, but that does not mean they are necessarily recognized as Jewish in Israel. Indeed, the majority of the new arrivals from Russia and Ukraine in recent years are not considered halakhically Jewish – that is, they were not born to Jewish mothers – and are, therefore, prohibited from marrying in the country.
According to the CBS figures, a total of 25,497 immigrants arrived in Israel in 2021 – up nearly 30 percent from the previous year. Russians and Ukrainians accounted for half of them. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were the most popular destinations for these immigrants.