Aliyah (immigration to Israel) hit a ten-year high in 2014, with the arrival of some 26,500 new immigrants. This marks a 32% increase over last year's number of approximately 20,000 immigrants, according to end-of-year figures released Wednesday (Wednesday, December 31) by The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption.
2014 also marked the first year ever in which France topped the list of countries of origin for immigrants to Israel, with nearly 7,000 new immigrants in 2014, double the 3,400 who came in 2013.
Last year, nearly 3,300 Jews from France immigrated to Israel, a 63-percent jump in French aliyah from 2012.
The Israeli government has taken steps to encourage French immigration, approving an initiative that includes a hefty boost in the amount of Israeli emissaries operating in France; a significant increase in the public relations campaigns targeting French Jewry, and the implementation of new procedures that will expedite the absorption process for French Jews.
Furthermore, the Israeli government is developing draft measures to recognize French diplomas and other qualifications.
"France is today the leading country for Jewish emigration to Israel. It has never been before," said Ariel Kandel, head of the French office of the Jewish Agency for Israel, in September.
"Our lives have become absurd," Nicole Yardeni, the head of the local branch of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, said after last summer's between Israel and Hamas ended. "We endure daily insults and get spat on, a general feeling of anxiety because a part of the population has a poisoned mind that makes it their mission to hurt Jews, regardless of Gaza."
190% increase in immigration from Ukraine
Another interesting rate of immigration was this year from the Ukraine, from where previous year some 5,840 new immigrants have come over the course of the year, compared to some 2,020 in 2013.
This dramatic 190% increase is due primarily to the ongoing instability in the eastern part of the country. The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption are meeting the challenge posed by the situation on the ground by expanding operations in Ukraine and offering immigrants special financial assistance.
However, immigration from North America increased in 2014 modestly, with the arrival of some 3,870 immigrants compared to some 3,600 last year. Approximately 3,470 immigrants came from the United States, compared to some 3,200 in 2013 – an 8% increase. Some 400 immigrants came from Canada, compared to some 384 last year.
More than half of the immigrants who came to Israel in 2014 were under the age of 35, including some 5,300 children and some 8,200 young adults between the ages of 18 and 34. The eldest immigrant this year was born in 1910 and made Aliyah from France at the age of 104. The youngest came from the United States and was only several weeks old.
Tel Aviv led the chart of cities receiving new immigrants, with approximately 3,000 new Tel Avivians. The coastal city of Netanya came second and Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, came in third.
Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky said: "2014 was a year of record-breaking Aliyah. This year also saw a historic shift: for the first time in Israel's history, the number of immigrants who came to Israel from the free world is greater than that of immigrants fleeing countries in distress. This trend is evidence of Israel's attractiveness as a place where it's good to live, as well as of the success of our joint efforts to promote Aliyah and strengthen connections between Jews around the world and the State of Israel. As we forecast further increases in Aliyah from around the world, I very much hope the next government continues to join The Jewish Agency in maintaining Aliyah encouragement and immigrant absorption as top priorities."
Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver said: "This year we mark a ten-year record of Aliyah and a 32% increase over last year in the number of Jews who reached the conclusion that they have no other country. I am excited to see the fruits of our many efforts to encourage Aliyah, but we have not yet reached our goal. Our ministry continues to work together with all relevant parties to promote the ingathering of the exiles, a vision that has accompanied the people of Israel since the state's establishment. We expect that some 10,000 new immigrants will come from France alone next year, and we will surpass 30,000 immigrants from around the world – and even more."