Jewish immigration to Israel dropped by nearly 40 percent over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures released Monday.
Some 21,200 Jews immigrated to Israel in 2020, compared to around 33,500 the year before, constituting a drop of 36.7 percent, according to data released by the Immigration Ministry and Jewish Agency.
The largest drop in aliyah, the Hebrew term for Jewish immigration to Israel, was recorded among newcomers from Russia, with 6,260 arriving in 2020 compared to over 15,000 in 2019.
The decrease in immigration was attributed by the semi-governmental Jewish Agency to the “paralysis in air travel and ongoing crisis” of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Immigration from France, however, seemed to be unaffected by the global health crisis.
French aliyah had soared following the Paris attacks of 2015 that targeted the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, customers at a Jewish supermarket and a concert hall. It then declined and stabilized at around 2,500 Jews immigrating to Israel per annum in 2019 and 2020.
“The pandemic did not lower the motivation to make aliyah, on the contrary,” the director of the Jewish Agency in France, Arie Abitbol, told AFP.
“Despite the fact that for three months immigration has not been possible due to the lockdowns, the number of olim (immigrants) remained the same in 2020,” he said.
According to Abitbol, the economic difficulties in Europe along with Israel’s management of the health crisis, including a speedy vaccination campaign that has already reached a third of the country’s nine million-strong population, have increased French Jews’ interest in aliyah.
“We are overwhelmed by requests, especially from seniors and young people, families experiencing the uncertainty of an economic crisis due to the pandemic,” he said.
“Many people in the community say the health system in Israel is more reliable than in France and fear that the doors of Israel will be closed to them” if they don’t arrive