Photo Credit: Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90
Friends and family celebrate the arrival of more than 200 French Jews who made Aliyah, at Ben Gurion International Airport on July 20, 2016.

Some 27,000 immigrants arrived in Israel in 2016, according to estimates by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, compared with 31,000 who arrived in 2015. Aliyah from Russia and Brazil rose significantly over the past year, while immigration from France and Ukraine dipped. The data released on Thursday is preliminary but offers solid indications of Aliyah trends for the past year. The final statistics will be made available mid-January, as they are every year.

Some 7,000 immigrants arrived in Israel from Russia, which topped the Aliyah chart in 2016, compared with 6,600 who arrived in 2015. Approximately 5,500 immigrants arrived from Ukraine, compared with 7,221 who came last year. An estimated 5,000 new immigrants came from France, compared with 7,900 in 2015. Aliyah from the United States hit 2,900 immigrants, compared with 3,070 last year. These four leading sources of Aliyah also led the list in 2015 and 2014, although France—which led the chart in recent years—has slipped to third place.

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Aliyah from Brazil increased significantly, with the arrival of some 760 new immigrants this year, compared with 497 in 2015. 620 immigrants arrived from Belarus (compared with 600 last year), 650 from the United Kingdom (775), and 272 from South Africa (236).

Immigration to Israel has come to be characterized by youth: approximately 5,150 of the new immigrants were 17 or younger; 9,500 were between the ages of 18 and 35; 3,000 were between 36 and 45; 4,600 were between 46 and 65; and just over 3,000 were 66 or older.

Most of the new arrivals have professional backgrounds in industry, construction, and food services (some 5,000 individuals in total), high-tech and engineering (2,400), the humanities and social sciences (1,900), medical and paramedical fields (1,150), and accounting and law (1,080).

Eleven percent of the immigrants decided to make Tel Aviv their new home, while 10% moved to Jerusalem, 9% to Netanya, 8% to Haifa, 6% to Ashdod, 5% to Bat Yam, 4% to Ra’anana, 3% to Rishon LeZion, 3% to Be’er Sheva, and 3% to Ashkelon.

Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky said “the high numbers of immigrants over the past two years were due, in part, to a series of external factors that have changed or disappeared, at least for the moment. At the same time, despite the downward shift this year, we see that the long-term trends continue and the number of immigrants to Israel, particularly from Western countries, remains high compared to the averages of the past fifteen years. This is evidence of the fact that Israel continues to draw Jews from around the world seeking to live lives of meaning and identity.”

At the same time, Sharansky noted that the numbers also indicate that the State of Israel must invest more efforts in finding solutions for the swift integration and absorption of the immigrants, with an emphasis on employment, particularly recognition of professional and academic certifications.

“The Jewish Agency will continue its efforts to promote Aliyah and strengthen both Jewish identity and connections to Israel among Diaspora Jewry,” Sharansky said, pointing out that “thousands of Jewish young people from around the world came to Israel this year in order to participate in The Jewish Agency’s unique Israel experience programs, including Masa Israel Journey with nearly 12,000 participants, Onward Israel with some 1,600, and Machon Youth Leadership Training with some 430.”

“These numbers are constantly on the rise and they attest to the success of these unique frameworks in drawing dynamic, educated young people to get to know Israel firsthand and strengthening ties within the global Jewish family,” Sharansky concluded.

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