December 28, 2010
by GIL SHEFLER AND RUTH EGLASH
Figures indicate 16% rise in aliya compared to previous year; Jerusalem most popular place for new Olim; oldest immigrant 99 years old.
The Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency for Israel reported Tuesday that 2010 had seen a steady rise in new immigrants with more than 19,000 people from places as diverse as Venezuela, Malta, Japan, and Rawanda choosing to make aliya.
The two official bodies, which work together to facilitate aliya, reported that the increase was as much as 16 percent compared to the figures from the previous year. It was the second year in a row that aliya has seen a steady rise.
According to the figures, Jerusalem was the most popular city for new immigrants to make their home and the oldest person to arrive was 99.
The biggest proportional increase in aliya from a single country over the past year was from Venezuela which sent 150 olim in 2010 in comparison with 28 in 2009 –a spike of 280 percent. Venezuela’s Jewish community has been in sharp decline for over a decade due to several factors including a dramatic rise in violent crime, the weak economy and Venezuelan President Hug Chavez’s staunchly anti-Israeli policies. There are currently fewer than 10,000 Jews in the country, less than half there were ten years ago.
While South America saw the biggest relative increase in aliya, the majority of the new immigrants --some 40%- came from the Former Soviet Union. Despite former soviet states and Eastern European countries seeing an economic upturn this past year, JAFI and the ministry said that the increase of new immigrants was 8%, with the roughly 1000 people arriving from the Russian capital of Moscow.
“The figures regarding the growth in aliya from almost all parts of the world are particularly uplifting because of the war of de-legitimization waged aginst the State of Israel around the word,” Natahn Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and former oleh himself, said. “Many of the olim are young and from free countries who feel a an affinity with Israel and choose to build their lives and careers here and the future of their children.”
The number of North American Jews making aliya to Israel also rose from 3,767 in 2009 to 3,980 in 2010.
Immigration between the US and Israel, however, is a two-way street.
The number of Israeli-born residents in the US has increased by over 30 percent in the past decade, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported earlier this week. The news agency cited figures appearing in the new US census which showed 140,323 Israeli-born residents and US citizens currently live in the country, up from 109,720 in 2000.
According to these numbers, the number of Israelis born in the country who left for the US averaged 3,000 a year. The data seemingly failed to count Israeli citizens born outside of the country who currently reside in the US.
Some believe the overall number of Israelis living in the US may be up to 500,000.