December 28, 2006
by Daphna Berman
The number of immigrants to Israel in 2006 from North America and the United Kingdom has reached a 20-year high, according to data released this week by the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B'Nefesh.
Some 3,200 North Americans have immigrated here this year, marking the highest aliyah from North America since 1983. An additional 720 Jews from Britain have moved here - more than any year since 1984.
Advertisement The data includes the latest arrivals for 2006, who landed Wednesday on a chartered flight from North America.
Despite these increases, overall aliyah rates in 2006 fell to an 18-year low. The total number of immigrants this year dropped to an estimated 21,000, a decrease of about 9 percent over last year's figures. In particular, the numbers are down in France - once touted as an aliyah hotspot - and Eastern Europe, by 5 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
The joint Nefesh B' Nefesh-Jewish Agency flight that arrived Wednesday brought 220 new immigrants from North America. Ranging in age from 8 weeks to 87 years, the new Israelis came from 21 American states and 4 Canadian cities.
The flight marked the arrival of the 10,000th immigrant processed by Nefesh B'Nefesh.
Former minister Natan Sharansky, together with former ambassador Dore Gold, greeted the immigrants.
The number of North Americans immigrating to Israel has increased steadily by 10 percent annually over the last five years.
But immigration from the former Soviet Union has slowed significantly. Some 7,300 new immigrants from the FSU will come to Israel, a decrease of 23 percent from the year before.
Nevertheless, immigrants from the region still constitute the largest contingent, representing about 35 percent of the total number of immigrants for this year.