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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Israel welcomes record number of immigrants

The Jewish Agency revealed more than 70,000 people, primarily Russians and Ukrainians, have made Aliyah

A record number of foreign Jews have immigrated to Israel in 2022, the Jewish Agency nonprofit announced on Thursday, crediting its efforts to encourage Russian and Ukrainian Jews to make the move – called ‘Aliyah’ – to their religious homeland.

More than 70,000 immigrants – “olim chadashim” in Hebrew – from 95 different countries have arrived in Israel since January, the agency revealed – the highest number in 23 years. The vast majority hail from Russia (37,364) and Ukraine (14,680), with the number of Russian immigrants alone outnumbering the total number who migrated to Israel in 2021, a year which saw just 28,600 people make the journey.

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Jews hailing from North America comprised the third largest group of immigrants (3,500), followed by France (2,049), Belarus (1,993), and Ethiopia (1,498).

About 19,000 – 27% – of the year’s new arrivals are between ages 18 and 35, a demographic prized by the Jewish Agency for its ability to “revitalize the Israeli society and economy.” Another 24% (16,500) are under 18, while 22% are between age 36 and 50 and 14% are between 51 and 64. Just 13% are over 65, according to the agency.

The nonprofit appeared to credit its “Immigrants Come Home” initiative, launched in February following the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, for the higher-than-usual number of arrivals, calling the response “unprecedented.

The program has been so successful the agency reportedly plans to establish multiple “open absorption centers” for the new arrivals, where they can live together and benefit from community support services. The agency also sent 2,180 representatives to Jewish communities in 65 different countries this year.

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Russia ordered the Jewish Agency to shut down its operations in the country in July, accusing it of violating local laws with its collection of data on Russian citizens.

Any Jew with one or more Jewish grandparents may make Aliyah to Israel and become a citizen under the country’s Law of Return. While polling has shown the law is very popular, some argue it allows too many non-Jews – particularly those hailing from the former USSR – to settle in Israel, which in 2018 passed a law affirming that only Jews may have the right to self-determination within its borders.