The number of Jewish immigrants moving to Israel from the United States and the United Kingdom dropped in 2013, figures published on Sunday by the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Immigration Absorption show.
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A huge spike in immigration from France offset the drop and kept the number of new arrivals to the country more-or-less steady, the figures show.
The number of new immigrants to Israel from around the world totaled 19,200 in 2013 – up by just more than 1 percent compared with the previous year, the figures show. On the one hand, the number of immigrants from France rose by 63 percent to 3,120, but on the other hand, the number arriving from the United States was down 13 percent to 2,680 and the number coming from the United Kingdom was down 27 percent to 510. This was the first time in many years that immigration from France surpassed immigration from the United States.
Also offsetting the increase registered in French immigration was a 44 percent decline in immigration from Ethiopia, with the conclusion of Operation Dove’s Wings, which brought over the final wave of those deemed eligible to emmigrate from that country. The total number of Ethiopian immigrants arriving in Israel this year was 1,360.
The sharp jump in immigration from France has been attributed to several factors, among them rising anti-Semitism and a bad economy. With almost 500,000 members, France has the largest Jewish population in Europe. The Jewish Agency has established a special taskforce to help facilitate further immigration from France this year.
Responding to the publication of these figures, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said: “That 19,200 Jews have chosen to establish their lives in Israel is a concrete expression of Israel’s centrality to Jewish life and to Jews around the world. This is an era of Aliyah (immigration to Israel) by choice, rather than Aliyah of rescue, and so it is important that we continue the Jewish Agency’s efforts to strengthen the young generation’s Jewish identity and deepened their connection to Israel.”
As in previous years, the largest group of immigrants this year came from the former Soviet Union, their number totaling 7,520 – a 1 percent drop from the previous year.
Immigration to Israel from Latin America grew by more than a third this year to total 924, the majority of these new arrivals coming from Argentina, Peru and Brazil. Immigration from Middle Eastern countries, most of them unidentified, rose by 4 percent to 245. By contrast, immigration from Eastern Europe dropped 8 percent to 270.
This year’s immigrants were on the whole young and tended to be female. According to the Jewish Agency figures, 60 percent of the new immigrants were under 35, with 37 percent between ages 18 and 34, and almost 53 percent were female. The group included more than 700 doctors and healthcare professionals. The city that attracted the biggest number of immigrants was Jerusalem, where 2,400 set up base, followed by Tel Aviv, which drew 1,650.
Update (Feb. 19, 2014): The Immigrant Absorption Ministry released corrected immigration figures for American migrants, which indicate a 1.2%, not 13%, decline. For the full story, click here.