Historical First

France Now Leading Source of Immigration to Israel

Over 4,500 French Jews have moved to Israel in 2014, marking a 25-year high. Officials say anti-Semitism, weak economy are behind rise.

Ofer Vaknin

France for the first time since the founding of Israel is the leading source of immigration to the Jewish State, the Jewish Agency for Israel announced Friday.

Some 4,566 French immigrants arrived in Israel from January through August 31, surpassing Russia, with 2,632 immigrants, and Ukraine, with 3,252 immigrants. The figure represents a 25-year high for immigration to Israel from France.

“France is today the leading country for Jewish emigration to Israel. It has never been before,” said Ariel Kandel, the Jewish Agency's emissary in Paris.

The Jewish Agency is the quasi-governmental agency responsible for organizing Jewish immigration to Israel.

”We will get close to 6,000 departures from France in 2014,” said Kandel. He attributed the rise to a “climate of anti-Semitism that is losing its taboo” as well as economic difficulties in France, which is suffering from zero growth and record high unemployment."

The United States, whose Jewish population is more than 10 times that of France, has sent 2,218 new immigrants to Israel so far this year.

The figures were published on September 1 by Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. The number of French immigrants in 2014 is the highest on record since 1989 and already has surpassed last year’s record-breaking number of 3,263 French newcomers. In 2004, another banner year for French aliyah, there were 2,948 French immigrants to Israel.

Between 1989 and 2013, an average of 1,943 French immigrants arrived in Israel per year.

Immigration from Ukraine – where government troops are fighting pro-Russian separatists in a conflict that has produced thousands of casualties and tens of thousands of displaced persons – also increased dramatically this year.

The 3,252 immigrants who came to Israel from Ukraine since January constituted a 61-percent increase over the 1,270 Ukrainian immigrants who arrived in Israel during the corresponding months last year.