Immigration From North America Highest in Decades

A group of 201 immigrants from North America landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday, part of a wave of immigration this year that is set to be the highest in two decades.

"The year will end with a record figure of 2,800 immigrants - the highest since the early 1980s," said Michael Landsberg, head of the Jewish Agency's aliyah department in New York.

The group that arrived Wednesday is the fourth such group from the U.S. this year. Another large group of American immigrants is to be expected before the end of 2004, Landberg said.

As in previous recent cases, the latest group was organized by the Jewish Agency's aliyah department and Nefesh B'Nefesh, which provides financial aid to each immigrant family.

Figures released in New York on Tuesday indicated that 2,240 immigrants arrived from the U.S. during the first 10 months of this year, compared to 2,385 in 2003.

Israel's consul general in New York, Arye Mekel, said immigrants from the U.S. will constitute 15 percent of the total number of immigrants arriving in Israel this year.

The group comprises mostly religious families, aged 28-35, with college backgrounds.

However, among the immigrants are Irma Haas, 97, and her sister Hilde Meyer, 94, both Holocaust survivors. They were born in Germany and fled to Holland in World War II, but later deported to the Berger-Belsen death camp. The sisters survived and relocated to the United States, living in Manhattan and New Jersey.

According to the information released Tuesday, the new immigrants have opted to live in Jerusalem, Netanya, Modi'in and Beit Shemesh.

Another group of 50 immigrants, aged 18-35, of Russian origin left JFK Airport on Tuesday for Israel to look into work and study options.