The year 2023 was marked by a decline in the number of immigrants to Israel, but it seems that the war that has been going on here in the last three months could have changed that trajectory.
In 2022, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, 62,403 new immigrants arrived in Israel—over 15,000 of them from Ukraine, with others hailing from Russia, France and Belarus.
In all of 2023, only 36,293 new immigrants came to Israel, with the largest number in January at 6,711. As the year progressed the numbers continued to decline. Still, from data collected by Israel’s Aliyah and Integration Ministry, since the outbreak of the Oct. 7 war, there has been a significant increase in the number of new immigration files opened—a figure that will necessarily impact immigration data in the first months of 2024, which will likely see a spike once tabulated in full.
According to Qualita, the umbrella organization of French immigrants in Israel, there has been a 500% surge in the number of aliyah files opened in France since the outbreak of the war. Ariel Kandel, CEO of the organization, said: “The antisemitism and thousands of violent incidents against Jews in France have led to an unprecedented desire for French Jews to immigrate to Israel and assist in the war effort.
“This is an opportunity that must not be squandered. The State of Israel needs to initiate and implement a program to bring new immigrants as soon as possible, to strengthen the state during and after the war.”
According to Nefesh B’Nefesh, which operates in North America, since the start of the war, some 4,200 aliyah files have been opened with them—an increase of 120% compared to the same period the year before (October to early January).
Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founder and Executive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass told Israel Hayom: “North American Jewry is voting with its feet and choosing to immigrate to Israel in its difficult hour. The war did not cause Jews who wanted to immigrate to cancel their plans—it even intensified the urgency to get to the land, out of a sense of belonging and solidarity.”
Since the start of the war until the first week of January, a total of 4,783 new immigrants have immigrated to Israel, most of them from Russia, the United States, Ukraine and France. Almost all of the immigrants who arrived in Israel during this period began the process before the war. In total, since the outbreak of the war, nearly 7,000 new aliyah files have been opened worldwide.
In January, about 100 young immigrants from 23 countries arrived in Israel through the Scout Movement’s “Tzabar” program. They will undergo military preparation activities and Hebrew-language studies, and will enlist for combat roles in the IDF in a few months. About 30 youths from France, who arrived in Israel in November to enlist for service, are also currently staying at the Gur Yehuda pre-military academy.
Spike in Opening Immigration Files
The Aliyah and Integration Ministry, the Jewish Agency and other organizations also estimate that the reasons for the spike in requests to open immigration files are the war in Israel and the growing antisemitism worldwide. However, the conventional wisdom is that the main reason for immigration is still Zionism. Half of the candidates who opened aliyah files in the United States stated Zionism as the main reason for their aliyah.
According to the World Zionist Organization, 2023 ended with an increase of 230% in antisemitic events worldwide compared to 2022. A report from Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism Ministry, submitted to the Knesset Aliyah and Integration Committee, stated that there had been an increase in antisemitic incidents since the outbreak of the war. For example, in the United States more than 400 higher education institutions received bomb threats, an increase of 540% compared to the same period last year.
In Toronto, Canada, the number of antisemitic incidents has risen 211% since the beginning of the war, in Britain, there was an increase of 162%, and in Australia, there was an increase of 738% compared to the same period last year.
An Antisemitic Incident Every 80 Seconds
According to research conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, an antisemitic incident occurs somewhere in the world every 80 seconds.
According to the organization Fighting Online Antisemitism, which prepared a report together with the WZO, since the outbreak of the war, there has been a 300% spike in antisemitic content on social networks.
Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer said in the wake of these developments: “The immigration of many Jews to Israel during the war and the tremendous spike in opening immigration files are an important Zionist act and expression of solidarity with the state at this time.”
Doron Almog, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, added: “Immigration to Israel at times like these is yet another testament to the degree to which Diaspora Jewry has partaken in building the State of Israel and its revival. I welcome every one of the immigrants who are building their home in Israel these days.”