Sunday, September 5, 2010

Has Aliyah (Jewish Immigration to Israel) From North America Peaked – Or is It Stalling?

Here's something that caught my eye. In today's Haaretz there was an article about the "sharp rise" in aliyah since last calendar year (the calendar in question is the Jewish one), in fact, 18%. This is the second year in a row that there was such a rise. Jewish Agency's Natan Sharansky put the good news succinctly:

"After 10 years during which we saw less and less immigrants, now we see an increase," said Sharansky yesterday at a press conference at the Jewish Agency's Jerusalem headquarters. "This year there were more immigrants from the former Soviet Union, more immigrants from the United States, from Britain and from South Africa - there's an increase from almost everywhere."

From the Hebrew version we learn that 5,130 Jews made aliyah from English-speaking countries, but the Jewish Agency didn't say what percentage increase that was, and understandably so – the increase was lower than in previous years.

That struck me as odd. I personally know people making aliyah from America, and I have been to the sleek new offices of Nefesh b'Nefesh, the organization that since 2002 markets and organizes aliyah. The stories in the media of the last few years have been about the sharp rise in the number of North American immigrations from year to year. Here's one from 2007. And here's one from the Wall Street Journal at the end of 2009. And what about all those pictures in August of plane-loads arriving?

But a comparison of the first six months of 2010 (1707) with the same time frame in 2009 (1746), using the figures from the Ministry of Absorption, shows a slight drop in aliyah from North America this year. (The biggest month is traditionally August.) The numbers, of course, are still good compared with five years ago, but they are so small as to be insignificant in the greater scheme of things.

So what should we conclude from this? That despite the efforts of Birthright and Nefesh b'Nefesh, and despite the continuing recession in America, and the relatively good economic times in Israel, or the ability to live in one country and work in another – that despite these and other facts, the "mini-boom" in aliyah from America has peaked?

Or would it be better to infer that the numbers of new immigrants to Israel is so miniscule that an overall rise in 18% (depending on how you count, and whom you rely on for your statistics) means very little – in fact, it means an increase of a mere ¼ of 1 percent of Israel's population (7,308,800).

Since the waning of the Russian aliyah in the early 1990's, there has been no numerically significant aliyah, which is why the per cent increases can be so big. Isn't it past time to reformulate the Law of Return to be more in keeping with immigration policies of the nations of the world? Preference can be given to people fleeing religious persecution – but no more than that.

Or, even better, to replace it with an immigration law that gives some preference to the two major national groups, Jews and Palestinians?


Tord Steiro said...
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Anonymous said...
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Elliot said...
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Eric said...
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Jerry Haber said...
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Anonymous said...
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Elliot said...

Anonymous said...

Jerry Haber said...

To the commenters,

Blogger just put in a new spam function and I misread it. So I inadvertently deleted a zillion of comments.

My apologies. Won't happen again.

Jerry Haber said...

I mistakenly instructed Blogger to "remove content" which I thought just cleared my screen. I didn't know that it deleted comments.

Sorry. Won't happen again.

By the way, to arrive at the conclusion that North American Aliyah had stalled, I simply compared the first six months of 2010 with the first six months of 2009, using the ministry of absorption website. Since I didn't include August of either years (not yet available for 2010), the comparison was not skewed, as one inattentive Anonymous (who missed the link to the Ministry of Absorption website) thought

Jerry Haber said...

Elliot has left a new comment on your post "Has Aliyah (Jewish Immigration to Israel) From Nor...":

Jerry -
Israel has become increasingly more attractive to Orthodox Jews of all stripes. In the past it was the Bnai Akiva folks had an ideology to live up to.
Now, is is quite normal for so-called black hats to move to Israel. It is not a good sign for Israel that it can only draw on Orthodox Jews.
What I see is that Jews speak the rhetoric of Israel being their refuge but they don't actually mean it.
For the vast majority of Jews, Israel has reverted to its age-old function as a place of pilgrimage.

Jerry Haber said...

I have seen an increased effort to recruit normal people from US, UK, Australia to "make aliyah". My daughter is one, following a namby-pamby Birthright trip , she signed up as a 6-month volunteer for several admirable agencies. Emmphasis seemed to be on Americans, Britsigh, Australian kids on non-orthodox families, but with committment to Western tolerance and civil rights.

People loved Israel, warts and all, and made special efforts to get to the West Bank. One group, including Israeli nurses and a volunteer from med school, regularly visited a West Bank town that has been cut off from all medical support by the settlement wall. The group was horrified and astounded when a gang of settlers came down from their hilltop to scream curses at them. "I've never been cursed by other Jews for being a Jew", said one.

One young man staid on to join the Israeli Army. He grew up in southern Virginia, where his family was about the only Jews. He felt at home, although he could have felt equally at home if he had moved a hundred miles north to DC, or 350 miles north to NYC.

Still, it's his life. He's young and learning.

My guess is that people I like are trying to balance the Kahane-epigones.

If these kids are willing to defend real American values (see Rorty's last book and Judith Green's critique) then that's good.

Meanwhile, here in NYC in these United States, a wave of anti-Islamic bigotry is being pushed by Fox Noise. Last year it was "immigrants", which meant anyone with a latino accent. Now it's Muslim Americans.

Take a look at the website defending the Lower Manhattan Islamic Cultural center, originally named the Cordoba Center, after the birthplace of Avveroes and Maimonides. It is routinely called "the mosque at Ground Zero", now.

Theer will be a candlelight vigil at 7:30 on FRiday, September 10. See the announcement and flyer at, which is the website for NY Neightbors for American Values. They don't have a zippy name yet, but it includes just about everyone you would want.

By the way, the Islamic Center, which is hidden from the World Trade Center site, and which no New Yorker calls "ground zero", has been carefully designed for about the last seven years by the founders, a pair of Sufi Muslims, along with their close friends at the Reform Jewish Congregation B'nai Jeshrun (BJ) and the United Methodist Church of St Paul and St Andrew.

A pseudo-christian group in Georgia plans to burn copies of the Quran to "celebrate" September 11.

Billy Graham's son, Franklin, has travelled across the South recruting Southern Baptists to crusade against Islam.

Simon Wisenthal and the ADL have suggested what Sol Resnick, Queens Collge Professor Emitous, would have called "a compromise with the devil".

[reference to compromise between General Groener and the Imperial German Army with the leadership of the SPD in 1918: shoot the socialists and the new government will protect the Army...which became the core of the Nazis]

When I lived in Israel during most of May, I was struck by how little Israelis read about the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. "When will you bomb Iran?", they asked.

Appears to be mutual ignorance.

Please look a little more at the Park51 effort. If the bigots win, then the biggest cuntry capable of exerting comon sense will have collapsed into a neo-con proto-fascist swamp.


Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Islamophobia as the New Antisemitism":

the jewosh agency didnt give the percentage increase. Using the sources you cite I'll do the math for you

wsj journal number for calendar 4000 in 2009 (article you cite) article in ynet you cite 5294 for jewish year 5294 concluding this week

of course in order to distort and make your case you use 6 month date (till june 30) but the nefesh bnefesh major flight you mention was in august and logically more people make aliya in the summer months when school is out

do you actually think a difference of 39 for the compariosn of 6 months period tells you anything ? a difference of 2.2% vs the 30%+ for the year on year data you cite

could a reasonable academically trained person not look at the data and see the 6 mo numbers as nothing more than a season quirk since in 2009 (using the wsj number you cite for 2009 ) paired with the 2009 data from the govt shows 57.5% of the olim in 2009 arrived in the second half of the year (1707 the govt number you cite+2297 =4000 for the year, the number in the wsj article)

might a reasonable person not assume something similar happened in 2010 for the calendar year esp since using the jewish year the jewish agency number is 5130)

no one ever claimed the north american aliya is large but using the data you cite the calendar yr number will show a significant increase as well far more than 8%

I go through this simple but laborious arithmetic exercise simply to show how you
consistently distort to make your points ?

are you really any more rigorous than the biased academics you rightly critique. Simple math says no.

Anonymous said...

thks for ur courtesy in moving the must be a busy man

Anonymous said...

i checked the ministry of absorption data, the ynet article and wsj article from 2009 your general conclusion about north american aliya are unfounded using any standard of research

but give it a try how do you recocile the wsj article with the ynet article both of which you found useful enough to link ?