January 2016

French Jews Among Largest Groups Increasing Aliyah in 5775

Though he’s been in Israel for less than a year and is far from his family, Thibault already feels more at home there than he ever did in his native France, especially in light of the horrific terrorist attacks that killed more than 120 people there earlier this month.

In the Jewish year 5775, the largest group who made aliyah from a single country came from France, with 7,350 immigrants; this was a 10% increase over the previous year, according to data compiled by The Jewish Agency for Israel and Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption. War-torn Ukraine followed closely with 6,900 immigrants, a 50% increase.

Thibault finds a new home in Israel

In Paris, Thibault felt like an outsider. Though his grandparents are Holocaust survivors, he grew up in an assimilated household with little connection to the Jewish community. Yet his Jewish last name still left him a target for rising anti-Semitism. Feeling vulnerable and looking for a new path, he turned to the Jewish Agency.

Thibault’s story is similar to the experiences of thousands who came from Jewish communities where anti-Semitic incidents are increasing. The Jewish Agency assisted Thibault and others every step of the way, from offering pre-departure counseling and arranging his travel to providing him with temporary housing, Hebrew courses and more to jumpstart life in his new home.

Thibault now lives in a Jewish Agency-run absorption center near Tel Aviv. He’s surrounded by fellow young French Jews eager to begin new lives while trying to adjust to their new language, culture and reality. It’s a diverse and supportive community that – with the support of individuals and organizations in South Palm Beach County and worldwide – is growing stronger every day.

The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption have been running programs worldwide to foster Aliyah and remove barriers to the immigrants’ integration in Israeli society.

New French arrivals in Israel

Overall a record 29,500 immigrants from 97 countries across the world arrived in Israel in 5775, representing a 13% increase from the 26,000 who came in 5774. Most of this year’s immigrants came from countries in the former Soviet Union (some 14,100) and Europe (more than 9,000). Some 3,600 immigrants came to Israel from North America and 1,200 came from South America.

“For the past few years, the majority of immigrants to Israel have been coming from free and democratic Western countries,” said Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel. “These immigrants’ free choice to live in Israel, and their preference for Israel over other countries, is the true triumph of Zionism.”

The three most popular destinations in Israel were Tel Aviv-Yafo, which welcomed some 3,500 new immigrants, the coastal city of Netanya with 3,400, and Jerusalem, where 3,000 new immigrants made their home in 5775.

“These figures, which show a significant increase in the number of immigrants to Israel, reinforce the overall picture that the year 2015 will represent a year of record Aliyah for more than a decade,” said Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption. “We estimate that, at this rate, by the end of the civil year we will reach between 30,000 and 35,000 immigrants.”

Thousands of the new immigrants to Israel are young college graduates who came via specially created programs run by The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption. Nearly 3,000 of them work in engineering and technology, and more than 1,000 are doctors and other medical professionals. About 70% of the new arrivals are under the age of 44, including close to 7,800 who are 19 or younger and some 12,000 between the ages of 20 and 44.

“We at the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the government and Israeli society in general are faced with a fascinating and compelling challenge, to both ensure that immigrants who arrive in Israel are well integrated and do whatever we can to increase activities to encourage Aliyah,” added Elkin.

For more information on Aliyah, visit jewishagency.org/aliyah.

*Aliyah figures for 5775 are based on estimates as the final numbers are being processed.