Immigration from France and other Western European countries was up dramatically in 2013, but immigration from the US was down, according to figures released Sunday by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Some 19,200 Jews made aliyah (the Hebrew term for immigrating to Israel) in 2013, a slight rise over the 18,940 who immigrated in 2012, the organization said.
France saw 3,120 Jews leave for Israel, marking a huge 63% increase over the 1,916 who came in 2012. The increase is believed to reflect a well-documented swelling of anti-Semitic incidents in the country.
The phenomenon was not limited to France. Western Europe as a whole saw a 35% increase in aliyah in 2013, driven by a 46% increase from Belgium and a 57% increase from the Netherlands. A poll released in November indicated that a full 75% of self-identifying Jews in Western European countries have considered emigrating because of anti-Semitism.
The UK bucked the Western European trend by sending 510 new immigrants, 27% fewer than 2012, but other English-speaking countries saw more Jews choosing to make their home in Israel: 265 came from Australia and New Zealand, a 46% increase, and 204 came from South Africa, a 19% increase.
Immigration from Latin American countries also showed a significant increase in 2013: 1,240 total, as compared to 926 from 2012, a 34% increase. Most of the new immigrants were from Argentina, Peru and Brazil.
Immigration from the United States saw a decline in 2013, with 2,680 making the move compared to 3,070 in 2012, a 13% decrease. Canadian aliyah numbered 321, about the same as 2012.
The greatest number of immigrants, 7,520, came from the former Soviet states, a figure roughly the same as in 2012. Most new immigrants came from Russia, Belarus, the Baltic states and Ukraine.
Immigration from Ethiopia was down 44%, though the rate of immigration from Ethiopia is set by the Israeli government, so changes in the numbers do not reflect the desire for aliyah in the country of origin. The decline from Ethiopia was “due to the conclusion of Operation Dove’s Wings, which brought the remainder of those who have been deemed eligible to immigrate to Israel and which saw the arrival of 1,360 immigrants this year, compared to 2,432 last year,” the agency noted.
While the oldest immigrant in 2013 was 104 years old, the majority of new immigrants were young: 60% were under the age of 35, and 27% of new immigrants were minors accompanying their families.
Many thousands of new immigrants, the agency said, are “professionals and graduates of academic programs” and in 2013, more than 700 doctors and healthcare professionals choose to make their home in Israel.
“This is an era of aliyah by choice, rather than aliyah of rescue,” Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said, noting that the new immigrants’ choice “to establish their lives in Israel is a concrete expression of Israel’s centrality to Jewish life and to Jews around the world,” and that work must continue to “strengthen the young generation’s Jewish identity and deepen their connections to Israel.”