2019 Was Israel's Best Year of Decade for Aliyah

Over 3,000 immigrants moved to Israel from Middle Eastern and other countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations

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.
Jewish new immigrants from North America arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport.Credit: AFP
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

More than a quarter million immigrants moved to Israel in the past decade from 150 different countries, according to estimates published by the Jewish Agency on Sunday.

The main countries of origin were Russia, Ukraine, France, United States and Ethiopia – in that order.

The figures also show that an estimated 34,000 immigrants came to Israel in 2019, the largest number for any year in the past decade.

The full-year figure was extrapolated from the total number in January through November of this year. The jump in aliyah in 2019 was fueled by an especially large increase in the number of immigrants from Russia – up by about one-third compared to last year.

More than half of the roughly 255,000 immigrants who arrived in Israel since 2010 (about 130,000) were from the former Soviet Union. A large percentage of them – somewhere close to half – are not considered Jewish, according to religious law, because they are not the offspring of Jewish mothers. As a result, although they are eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return, they are not allowed to marry in Israel or be buried in Jewish cemeteries unless they undergo Orthodox conversions.

Another 55,000 immigrants came from Europe (38,000 of them from France) and 32,000 from the United States. Another 10,000 immigrants came from Ethiopia, all members of the Falashmura community who were pressured to convert to Christianity more than a century ago. Upon arriving in Israel, these Ethiopian immigrants were required to undergo formal conversions to Judaism.

Another 13,400 immigrants came from South America – mainly Brazil and Argentina – and more than 2,500 from South Africa. According to the Jewish Agency, more than 3,000 immigrants moved to Israel from Middle Eastern and other countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations.

For a period of several years during the course of the decade, France was the largest supplier of immigrants to Israel. Thousands of Jews left the country because of rising anti-Semitism, as well as a depressed local economy. But contrary to earlier predictions, most French Jews stayed put, and immigration from France tapered off in the past few years.

According to the Agency, roughly 60 percent of the immigrants in the past decade were younger than 45.