Russian immigration to Israel spikes, but from France it plummets

The number of Russian immigrants marked the most dramatic increase, a rise of 46.6 percent from 2018. But the number of French immigrants dropped dramatically.

By World Israel News Staff 

Immigration to Israel increased in 2018 by 6.6 percent over the previous year, according to figures released Tuesday by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Immigration from Russia and the Ukraine showed the biggest increase. But French immigration dropped despite special efforts made to attract French Jews.

The number of French immigrants plummeted 23.5 percent from 2017. In 2018, 2,415 French Jews made Israel their home compared to a peak of 6,628 in 2015. It accounts for 8.7 percent of total immigration to Israel last year.

In November 2018, then-Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett launched a new project, called “Feel at Home.”

The program was publicized as aiming to provide a focused response to the specific needs of young new immigrants from France, with the stated objective of increasing and easing their integration into Israeli society.

However, while Israel hoped for larger numbers of French immigrants, particularly given the rise of anti-Semitism in that country, French Jews have opted for other places, including Canada, Australia and England.

The former Soviet republics account for two-thirds of Jews who made Israel their home during the past year. That immigration saw a spike of 46.6 percent in 2018 over 2017.

U.S. immigrants made up 9 percent of the total.

Israel encourages Diaspora Jews to move to Israel as part of a national mission to increase the percentage of world Jewry in Israel.

The concern of rising anti-Semitism in a number of countries, including the U.K. and France and even the U.S. and Canada has triggered a willingness by more Diaspora Jews to consider immigration to Israel.

Immigrants can receive assistance from the Israeli government. There are also private groups that offer help.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews assists “needy Jews” who want to move to Israel. The nonprofit says that it helps newcomers from “all over the world — Russia, Argentina, India, Muslim countries, and elsewhere — to escape anti-Semitism and extreme poverty, and to realize the dream of living in their biblical homeland.”

In the U.S., the group Nefesh B’Nefesh has gained a reputation for reviving immigration from the U.S. through outreach, education and by smoothing the bureaucratic process associated with moving to Israel.