Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption has reported that 2014 saw a 10-year high in the number of “olim,” or Jewish immigrants to Israel, with 26,500 Jews moving to the country in the past year.
For the first time ever, France was the largest source of Jewish migration, with 7,000 Jews making aliyah (literally “ascending”) to find a new home in Israel. This is more than double the rate for 2013; the last year saw numerous violent attacks on synagogues and Jewish establishments in France following the eruption of conflict between Israel and Gaza.
Ukraine was another prominent source of new Israelis this year, with 5,840 — nearly triple the number of immigrants in 2013. Ukraine has one of the largest Jewish populations in the former Soviet Union, but instability in that country has led many Ukrainian Jews to seek the relative security of Israel.
But a chief promoter of migration to Israel noted one overall positive trend. Natan Sharansky, president of the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit that encourages aliyah, said that “for the first time in Israel’s history, the number of immigrants who came to Israel from the free world is greater than that of immigrants fleeing countries in distress.” Sharansky himself was born in Soviet Ukraine, and moved to Israel after years as a political prisoner.
The Jewish Agency noted a modest gain in olim from the United States and Canada. Over half of 2014’s immigrants to Israel were younger than 35.
Israel’s Law of Return provides for government-assisted migration, settlement, and expedited citizenship for any Jew or person with recent Jewish ancestry. The Jewish Agency and other organizations help facilitate the migration to Israel of Jews from throughout the world.
Not to be outdone, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics released census data this week that claimed Arabs in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza would outnumber Jews in the same territory by 2020. Israeli statisticians have disputed the methods used by the Palestinians. The Jerusalem Post has quoted experts who claim that the Arab figures are exaggerated by including Palestinians living abroad, as well as those who affirm the overall relative youth and high birthrate of Arabs in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The high Arab birthrate, called the “demographic threat” in Israeli political jargon, has been a concern in recent decades for those wish to preserve Israel’s uniquely Jewish character.
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