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Past decade saw over a quarter million immigrants to Israel from 150 countries

More people make aliyah in 2019 than in the last 10 years; Russia leads way with decade’s most immigrants, followed by Ukraine, France, US and Ethiopia

Illustrative: New immigrants to Israel stepping off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport. (Courtesy Nefesh B'Nefesh/via JTA)
Illustrative: New immigrants to Israel stepping off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport. (Courtesy Nefesh B'Nefesh/via JTA)

Over a quarter million people immigrated to Israel in the last decade from roughly 150 countries, according to statistics released by the Jewish Agency on Saturday.

The closing calendar year saw some 34,000 immigrants alone, marking the largest annual figure in the past decade.

Some 66,800 people emigrated from Russia over the last 10 years — more than any other country. It was followed by Ukraine (45,670), France (38,000), the US (32,000) and Ethiopia (10,500).

Immigration from France peaked since 2009, with a third of the French citizens who have moved to Israel since the establishment of the Jewish state doing so in the past decade.

A bump was also seen recently in immigration from Brazil, with some 200 people from the largest South American country arriving to Israel per year over the first half of the past decade, while in the last five years, the average was 600 per year.

New immigrants from North America arrive on a special aliyah flight arranged by the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization, at Ben Gurion Airport in central Israel on August 14, 2019 (Flash90)

According to a report from the Central Bureau of Statistics released earlier this week, Israel is on pace for a 20 percent surge in immigration in 2019 since last year.

The report said that more than three million people have immigrated to Israel since 1948, with around 44% of them arriving after 1990.

The recent rise in immigration could be attributable to a law passed in 2017 granting an Israeli passport to anyone eligible for Israeli citizenship, without requirement to reside in the country.

A November report by the Makor Rishon newspaper suggested that many Russian speakers claimed Israeli citizenship but quickly returned to their home countries soon after receiving state benefits.

Meanwhile, immigration from France has been attributed to concerns of rising anti-Semitism in the country.

New immigrants from North America arrive on a special aliyah flight arranged by the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization, at Ben Gurion Airport in central Israel on August 14, 2019 (Flash90)

Under Israel’s Law of Return, anyone with a single Jewish grandparent is eligible for citizenship. Such immigrants, hailing largely from the former Soviet Union and Baltic states, count Jewish ancestry but are ineligible to marry as Jews under the state-controlled rabbinic court system if, for example, that single Jewish grandparent was male.

According to the bureau’s figures, 85% of immigrants reported satisfaction with their lives in Israel, which was lower than the 92% reported among other Israeli Jews.

In a report released this summer, the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research, an independent nonpartisan center, found that Israel was losing some of its brightest and best minds as tech professionals, engineers and academics leave its shores, thus facing a brain drain in the country.

For every Israeli with an academic degree who returned to Israel in 2014, 2.6 Israeli academics emigrated. By 2017, this figure had risen to 4.5 emigrants per returnee.

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