While aliyah was down in the first two and a half months of this year compared to 2015, experts are predicting immigration to Israel will rise in 2016, especially in Western Europe.
Some 32,000 immigrants moved to Israel in 2015, double the number seen in recent years. From 2008 to 2013 the number of immigrants remained fairly stable between 13,000 and 17,000.
Fears of increased terrorism abroad and rising anti-Semitism in Europe, have fueled a significant uptick in Aliyah over the past few years. With high-profile attacks like the Brussels bombings and November 2015 Paris attacks, European immigration to Israel is likely to pick up even more.
The most significant increases are expected from Western Europe, with a large wave of French Aliyah expected to dwarf 2015’s record of 7,500 immigrants.
This comes despite a significant drop in the beginning of 2016 compared to last year. Aliyah from France fell during the first two and a half months of 2016 by 38% compared to the same period in 2015. Aliyah from Belgium fell by 45%, while Italian Aliyah marked a 61% decline.
Even before the Brussels bombings, however, Jewish Agency Director Yehuda Sharf downplayed the decline, predicting that immigration would top 33,000 in 2016, slightly more than in 2015.
Avi Mayer, a spokesman for the Jewish Agency told Arutz Sheva why the apparent decline was a poor indicator of overall immigration levels for 2016.
“The figures presented by the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption refer primarily to Aliyah from Western countries,” Mayer explained. “The bulk of Western Aliyah tends to take place during the summer months, as families make the move ahead of the new school year and young people do so following the completion of their high school or university studies.”
“Aliyah figures from the first part of the year are therefore not considered indicative of overall trends and they tend to fluctuate from year to year, which is why it is our longstanding practice not to attempt to draw conclusions from those initial figures.”
“[W]e suggest preliminary Aliyah figures be taken with a grain of salt.”
While French immigration appears to be trending upward generally, the abnormally high levels of Aliyah in early 2015 can most likely be attributed to panic created by the January 2015 terror attack on the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket near Paris.
As Mayer noted, subsequent planned Aliyah tends to take place during the summer months.
Officials predict that French Aliyah will exceed 10,000 in 2016, breaking last year’s record of 7,500. The previous record was 1969, when 5,300 Jews from France made Aliyah. Similar increases in Aliyah are expected from other Western European countries like Belgium, The Netherlands, the UK, and Italy.