Over 15,000 have immigrated to Israel since Russia invaded Ukraine: ministry

Three times as many Ukrainians have moved to Israel in the past 2 months than in all of 2021, along with thousands of Russians and Belarusians, in massive migration wave

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: Ukrainians refugees receive their entry papers to Israel, at an emergency shelter in Chisinau, Moldova, March 15, 2022. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Ukrainians refugees receive their entry papers to Israel, at an emergency shelter in Chisinau, Moldova, March 15, 2022. (Flash90)

Over the past two months, nearly 9,000 people from Ukraine have immigrated to Israel — nearly three times as many as in all of 2021 — as have nearly 6,000 Russians and 400 Belarusians, in the wake of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry said Monday.

Another 10,000 people have expressed interest in immigrating, the ministry said. While this would make the current wave of immigration by far the largest since the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, it would also be far, far short of the initial Israeli projections of up to 100,000 new immigrants as a result of the Russian war.

“We have been through two intensive months of absorbing immigration. From the start of the war in Ukraine, the State of Israel has received more than 15,000 new immigrants and this is a source of great national pride,” Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata said in a statement.

The significant majority of the Ukrainian immigrants are women, children and the elderly, as the country’s draft laws have made it difficult for working-age men to leave. Indeed twice as many women have immigrated as men, according to the ministry.

Of the 15,000 immigrants from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, roughly a quarter are minors and 18 percent are over the age of 66. According to the ministry, Netanya has become the most popular destination for immigrants, with roughly a tenth — 1,543 — choosing to settle in the coastal city. The other leading locales are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the country’s largest three cities: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa.

Most of the immigrants have moved into long-term housing, with only 3,000 still living in government-sponsored hotel rooms.

Ukrainians who fled the fighting in Ukraine land at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv on March 17, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Tamano-Shata credited this to a government program giving additional rental assistance to immigrants from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. The plan provides NIS 2,300 ($714) in rental assistance per month for a year to individuals, NIS 2,900 ($880) for couples with up to two children and NIS 3,400 ($1,032) to families with three or more children.

Hundreds of immigrant children have already begun studying in Israeli schools and over 1,500 have started taking part in educational programming of some kind. Dozens of programs to teach immigrants Hebrew have opened across the country, including for adults, the ministry said.

“It is not at all trivial that a large portion of the new immigrants have started learning Hebrew, have started entering the workforce and the school system, and are even renting apartments, thanks to the rental program that we approved in the government for the new immigrants,” Tamano-Shata said.

“Many of these new immigrants left behind their loved ones and all of their property, but the dedication and accumulated knowledge of the Immigration and Absorption Ministry has proven itself in a time of crisis, and we are prepared and are expecting many more new immigrants,” she said.

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