French and Ukrainian Immigrants to Israel Outnumber Americans

Anti-Semitism and economic woes cited for spike, while U.S. immigration hardly rose.

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French Jewish immigrants at Ben-Gurion International Airport, July 16, 2014.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Immigration from France to Israel this year will be more than double that from the United States, according to preliminary Jewish Agency figures. Based on the current pace, the number of French Jews making aliyah could top 7,000 this year.

The figures show that 6,655 French Jews moved to Israel in January-November 2014 – an increase of 139 percent compared with the same period last year. The number of immigrants from the U.S. during the same 11-month period was 2,920 – up by 11 percent from the corresponding period last year.

France was the biggest source of immigration to Israel in 2013 as well, but not by that wide a margin. The number of French Jews who moved to Israel last year totaled 3,288, compared with 2,854 from the U.S. Almost every other year since the establishment of the state, American immigrants have outnumbered French. The gap is particularly striking considering that France’s Jewish population totals 500,000, while America’s is estimated at about 6 million.

The surge in immigration from France in recent years had been attributed to a combination of a bad local economy and rising anti-Semitism.

In 2013, the U.S. was the second largest source of immigration to Israel, followed by Ukraine. But according to the preliminary Jewish Agency figures for 2014, Ukraine should outpace the U.S. this year by a big margin as well. In the first 11 months of the year, 5,105 Ukrainians moved to Israel – an increase of 160 percent over the same period last year. In 2013, the number of Ukrainian immigrants totaled 2,193. The ongoing political unrest in Ukraine has prompted many Jews there to pick up and leave.

All told, according to the Jewish Agency figures, 23,400 immigrants arrived in Israel in January-November 2014 – an increase of 36 percent over the same period last year.

Another big increase, at least in percentage terms, was registered in immigration from Italy. The figures show that in January-November, 302 Italian Jews moved to Israel – an increase of 116 percent over the same period last year. Immigration from most other Western European countries was either down or slightly up in the first 11 months of the year.