Israel absorbed 60,000 new immigrants over the past Jewish year 5782 and expects to reach 64,000 by the end of the secular year 2022, the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration reported on Monday ahead of Rosh Hashanah.
That’s more immigrants in one year than any year in the last two decades and close to a 130% increase compared to 2021, when 28,500 Jews immigrated to the country.
“It is amazing to see the rising aliyah figures for 2022 and over recent years,” David Parsons, vice president and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) – which has heavily supported aliyah for the past several decades – told ALL ISRAEL NEWS.
“The global pandemic could not stop the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, and neither can the Russian government’s threats to close the door to Jewish immigration to Israel. In fact, it is only stirring more interest in Aliyah from all the former Soviet republics.”
In fact, the highest number of immigrants came to Israel as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, according to the ICEJ – roughly 40,000 people since February. Forty-seven percent of new immigrants were from Russia and 25% from Ukraine.
Immigrants also came from the United States (6%), France (4%) and Latin American countries (4%), as well as from Ethiopia (2%). Another 12% came from various different countries.
As part of Operation Zur Israel (Rock of Israel), roughly 3,500 Ethiopian immigrants arrived in the country – a number which is supposed to reach 5,000 by the end of 2022.
Zur Israel is the latest government initiative to bring Ethiopian Jews back to Israel, following Operations Moses and Solomon. It is supported by the Jewish Agency through donations made by Jews and Christians throughout the world, including from the United States, Canada, U.K., Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and others.
In total, 5,000 Ethiopians have been brought to Israel in the past two years, all of whom have first-degree relatives in Israel, Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata said. But she added that there are “2,000 more immigrants to come from Ethiopia who are first-degree relatives of Israeli citizens, and others who are more distant such as those who are grandparents or grandchildren of Israelis.”
She said that “the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration took upon itself the burden of leading two significant aliyah operations and did so with great dedication and success. I am proud to head a ministry that has proven beyond any doubt that it is capable of leading national missions with great success.”
Tel Aviv took in the highest number of immigrants at 6,327, followed by Haifa with 6,182, Netanya with 6,069 and Jerusalem, which took in 4,300 people. Other popular immigrant destinations included Bat Yam, Ashdod, Rishon Lezion, Nahariya, Ashkelon and Beersheba.
In total, some 323,000 Jews immigrated to Israel in the last decade.
Aliyah – immigration to Israel – is considered the fulfillment of the biblical “ingathering of the exiles” from the four corners of the earth, which is spoken about in the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah.
For example, Isaiah 11:12 says, “He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; He will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
Jeremiah 30 states, “The days are coming, declares the Lord, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land, I gave their forefathers to possess.”
While Jews have lived in Israel for centuries, including after the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish exile in 70 A.D., there have been large waves of aliyah beginning in the late 18th and early 19th century. Some of the most significant waves occurred during and immediately following the Holocaust between 1939 and the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, when around 700,000 Jews immigrated to the fledgling state, the majority from Europe.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
On one hand, increasing aliyah poses a challenge to the State of Israel, which need to provide a safe haven and services to support the integration and absorption of new immigrants, many of whom do not know the language. On the other hand, the ministry said, it infuses the country with new talent.
The ministry on Monday said it planned to open five new absorption centers to house new immigrants from Ethiopia, whose lifestyles are vastly different from Israelis. The government earmarked more than $160 million for the absorption of Zur Israel immigrants.
On Monday, the ministry accused Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi of racism for being “strongly opposed to the opening of the absorption center” for Ethiopian immigrants – a center that “is supposed to be operated by the Jewish Agency, where he serves as a member of the board of trustees,” Ministry Director-General Dganit Sankar-Langa said.
“I had a conversation with Mayor Davidi who said … that he is not interested in accepting immigrants from Ethiopia in his city and will not allow it,” according to Sankar-Langa.
Tamano-Shata was quoted as accusing the mayor of “pure racism” during a press conference on aliyah on Monday. She said, “This is racism. It is very sad and it should not be the face of Sderot. Being on the border with Gaza does not allow you to be racist.”
The municipality pushed back in a statement stating that the reason for refusing to build the absorption center was not racist but practical, in that the building in which the Jewish Agency hoped to house the center received a permit to build sheltered housing and the planning authority does not allow it to be turned into an absorption center.
“Any other claim made here is tantamount to libel,” the Sderot Municipality said.
It added that the city opened a cultural center for Ethiopian immigrants with the municipality's funds earlier this year.
According to the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the majority (63%) of immigrants who came to Israel in the last year were of working age, which could serve to boost Israel’s economy: 27% were between the ages of 18 and 35, 21% between the ages of 36 and 50, and 15% between the ages of 51 and 65. Children made up 23% and the rest were people 66 and older.
Over the past decade, around 14,000 doctors and 11,500 teachers have moved to Israel in addition to 9,000 scientists and researchers and 25,000 engineers.
Maayan Hoffman is a veteran American-Israeli journalist and strategic communications consultant. She is Deputy CEO - Strategy & Innovation for the Jerusalem Post, where she also served as news editor, head of strategy and senior health analyst.