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Immigration to Israel hits 23-year high

Over 70,000 people immigrated to Israel in 2022, more than twice as many as the year before and the highest number in over two decades, according to year-end figures released by the Jewish Agency on Thursday. The dramatic increase was driven by Moscow’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine and its crackdowns at home, with more than half of this year’s immigrants coming from Russia and a fifth coming from Ukraine, according to the organization, which facilitates immigration to Israel, known as aliyah.

The total includes all immigration to Israel from January 1, 2022, to December 1, 2022 — not only include people who made aliyah through the Jewish Agency — and includes those who came to Israel on tourist visas and only then went through the process of obtaining citizenship, instead of in advance as most do, a Jewish Agency spokesperson said.

The final total for the month of December will be available after the new year as it takes time to process the data.

“It was a dramatic year that emphasized the value of mutual responsibility among the Jewish people and during which the Jewish Agency helped strengthen the resilience of Jewish communities, empowered weaker populations in Israel, brought tens of thousands of olim (immigrants), saved lives from all over Ukraine and brought them to a safe harbor in Israel,” said Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog.

According to the organization, of the 70,000 people who immigrated to Israel in the past year, more than three-quarters came from countries involved in the Russia-Ukraine war, with 37,364 arriving from Russia, 14,680 from Ukraine and 1,993 from Belarus.

In addition, some 1,500 people immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia in the past year as part of Operation Tzur Israel, a government-backed program to bring thousands of Ethiopians eligible for citizenship to Israel.

Immigration from all other countries returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Jewish Agency, with 3,500 from North America, 2,049 from France, 985 from Argentina, 526 from the United Kingdom, 426 from South Africa and 356 from Brazil.

Smaller numbers immigrated from another 85 countries around the world, according to the organization.

Most of the people who immigrated to Israel in the past year were young, with 24 percent under the age of 18 and 27% between the ages of 18 and 35, “including professionals in fields where there is a labor shortage in Israel, such as medicine, engineering and education,” according to the Jewish Agency.

“The tens of thousands of olim who came to Israel this year will help build the resilience of Israeli society and will be a major growth engine for the Israeli economy,” Almog said.

Members of the incoming coalition have called for revising Israel’s Law of Return — which effectively sets the country’s immigration policy — by removing the so-called grandchild clause, which grants citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent so long as they don’t practice another religion.

Judah Ari Gross