August 20, 2010
by Cnaan Liphshiz
Immigration from South Africa has plummeted by 32 percent this year compared to the same period last year, according to Jewish Agency figures, while overall immigration to Israel this year increased by 25 percent compared to the corresponding months of 2009.
The total number of immigrants arriving in Israel from around the world from January 1 to July 31 was 9,738 - over a quarter more the same period last year, with its 7,817 newcomers. Yet the number of South African arrivals dropped from 232 to 157 for the parallel periods, according to the Jewish Agency interim report, which noted overall English-speaking immigration grew by six percent.
Immigration professionals said the dip was a result of Pretoria's drive to curb crime and improve services ahead of the World Cup games that it hosted this summer. This, according to Jewish Agency Spokesperson Michael Jankelovich - who was born in South Africa - has meant that "fewer people were feeling unsafe" and fewer were looking for an alternative to their country of birth. He grew up in Port Elisabeth before immigrating in 1973.
"Aliyah (immigration ) from South Africa is linked to general emigration trends," said Avrom Krengel, chairman of the Johannesburg-based South African Zionist Federation - a community body promoting Zionism. "Aliyah was high in 2008 because of rampant robbery, xenophobic killings and uncertainty about President Jacob Zuma's rise to power that drove other Whites."
Krengel said that since 2008, Israel has been the preferred destination for emigrating South African Jews, surpassing Australia and Canada.
Dave Bloom, vice chairman of Telfed - an Israel-based, independent association for Southern Africans, whose full name is the South African Zionist Federation Israel - said some Jews decided to postpone their immigration this year until after the historic World Cup games which were hosted in June in South Africa.
He said Telfed hoped that the final figure for 2010 would be "more-or-less the same" as in 2009, when 334 came from South Africa.