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Immigration to Israel from Western countries has dropped dramatically, according to Jewish Agency report

New immigrants from North America arrive on a special "Aliyah Flight" on behalf of Nefesh B'Nefesh, at Ben Gurion International Airport, Aug. 14, 2019. (Photo: Flash90)

The number of new immigrants from Western countries has dropped drastically, according to the Jewish Agency For Israel (JAFI) in its 2023 quarterly report on immigration.

Some 18,610 worldwide Jews made aliyah, immigrated to Israel, in the first three months of the year, representing a 24% increase over the year prior, during the same period. However, new olim (Israeli immigrants) from Western countries – the United States, the United Kingdom, France and South Africa – showed a sharp drop.

Immigration from Russia tripled in the first quarter, accounting for 75% of new olim, according to the JAFI report. The increase in Russian immigration is reportedly a consequence of the mass call-ups by the Russian military to join the ongoing battle between Russia and Ukraine, as well as to escape the violation of human rights under the rule of Vladimir Putin.

The main drop in immigration was from France and the U.S., which have been the two powerhouses of Western aliyah in recent years. The reasons behind the decline may be due to the high cost of living in Israel, especially real estate prices. For example, Tel Aviv has ranked as one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in for last two years in a row, and earned the No. 1 spot in 2021.

Other possible reasons for the decrease in aliyah may be the current political situation, specifically the controversy surround the Israeli government’s planned judicial overhaul. In February, some 60% of Israelis surveyed said they believed the judicial reform could deteriorate into violent protests, with some 35% fearing a potential civil war.

Only 391 new immigrants arrived from the U.S. since January, down by one third. Israel welcomed a mere 178 new immigrants from France, down by almost 66%.

JAFI reported a 27% decrease in aliyah from South Africa – just 97 new olim – in the first quarter of 2023. The UK saw a 50% drop compared to last year, with 83 new immigrants.

“The aliyah process is not immediate by its nature, and therefore, current trends are reflected only after some time,” the Jewish Agency said in a statement.

According to Nefesh B’Nefesh, the North American organization that assists olim with the immigration process, aliyah is slowly returning to where it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Aliyah continues throughout the months of the year, both from abroad and from those who have already arrived in Israel before, and therefore when trying to trace trends and changes, it is better to refer to the data for the entire year,” according to Nefesh B’Nefesh.

The number of new immigrants from Ukraine decreased so far in 2023, after a record-breaking aliyah year in 2022 due to Russia's invasion of the war-torn country.

Many Ukrainians who were entitled to immigrate to the Jewish state under Israel’s Law of Return either fled to other countries or returned to Ukraine, the report stated. There were only 861 arrivals from Ukraine, representing an 87% drop compared to the same three months last year.

Read more: ALIYAH

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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