Rise in Russian, Turkish immigration to Israel bucking Western slump


(JTA) — Bucking a slump in Western immigration to Israel under its law of return for Jews, movement from Russia has increased in 2017 and more than doubled from Turkey.

In total, the 23,415 immigrants who have come to Israel from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30 constituted a 2 percent increase over the corresponding period last year, an interim report by the Jewish Agency for Israel showed.

The 8 percent rise in immigration from the former Soviet Union, representing 13,192 individuals, helped make up for an 11 percent decrease from the United States, which brought 2,282 immigrants to Israel. Among the FSU figures, 5,661 immigrants came from Russia, where sanctions and a financial crisis exacerbated by low oil prices have halved the value of the ruble against the dollar since 2014.

Policies limiting personal freedoms in Russia under President Vladimir Putin also has contributed to the increase, Natan Sharansky, the outgoing chairman of the Jewish Agency, has said.

Ukraine, where the economy crashed following a revolution and territorial disputes with Russia after 2013, provided Israel with nearly 6,000 newcomers.

Immigration from France, which in 2015 was for the second year straight Israel’s largest source of immigrants with 7,328 newcomers, continued to plummet, registering a 26 percent drop this year to a total of 3,138 newcomers. France, which is seeing an economic improvement following several stagnant years, also has recorded a decrease in anti-Semitic incidents since 2015 that the government attributes to its security measures. Immigration from Britain also decreased by 16 percent to 459 newcomers.

In recent years, immigration tallies for the first three quarters of the year rarely have changed dramatically as the large waves of immigration, or aliyah, by families usually occur in the summer ahead of the new school year. In 2016, the tally for the first three quarters of the year accounted for 75 percent of the total annual number.

Another noticeable increase came from Turkey, where many Jews are exploring immigration options amid political instability and allegations of state-tolerated anti-Semitism under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the Islamist Justice and Development Party. This year, more than 350 Turkish Jews came, compared to 164 in the corresponding period last year.

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