A 20 percent increase in British immigrants to Israel and a huge rise in the number of French and Ukrainian Jews arrivals saw annual aliyah figures hit a ten-year high in 2014.
Jewish Agency officials said 620 Britons left the UK last year, compared with 520 the year before, but this stood in stark contrast to figures fromFrance, where a staggering 7,000 people left – more than double the 2013 total.
The number of British Jews making aliyah has been steady for several years, with 700 olim (immigrants) in 2012 and 556 registering in 2011.
“Before 2006 we typically saw between 200 and 300 people leave every year from the UK,” explains Maya Naeh from the Jewish Agency in London. “But in 2006 we saw a substantial rise, and the numbers have remained steady since then, and the figures have been pretty steady since then.”
Asked why this was, she said: “It’s a question we often ask ourselves. We thought maybe it could be because of the wars, but honestly, we can’t put our finger on why it is. Even our colleagues in Israel don’t know.”
While poor economic prospects and rising levels of anti-Semitism led to the French exodus, war caused a tripling in the number of Ukrainian Jews making aliyah, with many families leaving sheltered accommodation to do so.
“We expect that some 10,000 new immigrants will come from France alone next year, and we will surpass 30,000 immigrants,” said Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, who said 26,500 had entered in 2014.
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky identified an “historic shift” in the figures, saying: “This year, for the first time in Israel’s history, the number of immigrants who came from the free world is greater than that of immigrants fleeing countries in distress.”
While France contributed most significantly to the 88 percent increase from Western European, numbers were also up from Belgium and Italy. Tel Aviv was the most popular destination, with the coastal city of Netanya second and Jerusalem third.