The Chairman of the The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky announced on Monday that global aliyah (immigration to Israel) is up 55 percent, due largely to dramatic increases in immigration from France and Ukraine.
Speaking at the opening plenary of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors’ June meetings in Jerusalem, Sharansky announced that the Agency estimates French aliyah will surpass 5,000 individuals by the end of 2014, an all-time record and a full 1 percent of the 500,000 person French Jewish community. Never before has such a large proportion of a Western Jewish community made aliyah in a single year.
“Never in the history of the State of Israel has there been a Jewish community in the free world that has sent such a large proportion of its Jews to Israel,” Sharansky said. “We cannot take responsibility for the fact that so many Jews and so many French young people in general are leaving France, but the fact that Israel has become the number one destination for young French Jews is a testament to our success in connecting them to the Jewish state.”
Sharansky noted that The Jewish Agency’s Israel experience programs, including Masa Israel Journey and the teen program Bac Bleu Blanc, have seen record growth among young French Jews over the past two years. He also stated that it is The Jewish Agency’s responsibility to not only facilitate French Jewish immigration, but also to strengthen Jewish life in France.
According to Jewish Agency data, 7,912 individuals have made aliyah since the beginning of 2014 compared to 5,092 during the comparable period in 2013 , consisting of a 55 percent increase. This number does not include aliyah from Ethiopia, the pace of which is determined by the government of Israel. A total of 713 Ethiopian Jews made aliyah during this same period in 2013, a number that dropped to 143 this year due to the conclusion of Operation Dove’s Wings.
A total of 2,254 French Jews made aliyah during the first five months of 2014 compared to 580 during the equivalent period last year, a dramatic 289 percent increase. The first five months of 2014 also saw a dramatic increase in aliyah from Ukraine. The number of Ukrainian Jews immigrating to Israel reached 1,587 compared to 684 during the same period in 2013, a 132 percent increase.
Ukraine has been experiencing turmoil and civil war, which has led to a feared rise in anti-Semitism and a Jewish exodus from Ukraine.
Similarly, France has been experiencing a violent wave of anti-Semitism in recent years and the highest volume of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe during 2013 occurred in France. French Jews have expressed an intensified feeling that personal safety and communal well-being have been jeopardized over 2013, and 73 percent of French Jews blamed radical Muslims for the surge in violence.