Immigration to Israel

Israel is a country that has been a magnet for Jewish immigrants from all over the world since the 19th Century until now. The immigration waves were given names, nicknames and numbers: The First Immigration started in 1882 and it brought 30,000 Jews to Israel, The Second Immigration started in 1904 and The Third Immigration started immediately after the WW1, after which came the Fourth and Fifth immigrations. Immigration waves to Israel continued during the years and got different names: “The Magic Carpet” for Yemenite Jews immigration, “Solomon’s Operation” for the Ethiopian Jews and the Russian Immigration during the 1990’s. Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, aproximately3.2 Million Jews have immigrated to Israel, 42% coming from Russia. The Jews’ longing for Israel and their connection to the land is the primary factor for the continuous immigration there. The reasons and the numbers of immigrants changed during the years but immigration still continues – in 2014 26,000 immigrants came to Israel from Russia, Ukraine, France, USA and Ethiopia.


In 1950 “The Law of Return” was legislated in Israel which symbolized the essence of Israel as a Jewish country. This law states that any Jew that expressed his wish to immigrate to Israel and live there is entitled to an Israeli citizenship immediately – without tests, waiting periods or special conditions. In addition to Jews, also their spouses may immigrate to Israel, whether they are Jewish or not, and become “permanent residents” which allows them to work. The existence of the “Law of Return” created many discussions and arguments regarding the status of Democracy in Israel and following a petition presented to the Israeli Supreme Court the judge declared that “Equal rights between all human beings in Israel, be their nationality and religion as may be – is derived from the values of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country” – since in Israel there exists equal rights for all minorities that live in it.


The economic situation in Israel also caused the opposite phenomenon – young Israelis leaving Israel in search of a future elsewhere. In the summer of 2011 social protest regarding the high cost of living and the overall health of Israel’s economy exposed many young people to life in Israel compared with life in other western countries. Although Israelis do immigrate to other countries, and join the 75,000 Israelis living abroad, these numbers are still comparatively low. One of the phenomenon that has worried many Israelis during the years is “The Brain Fleeing” –academic, talented, professional and skilled Israelis that leave Israel so that they can work and research in universities abroad – an example of this has been the immigration of thousands of PHD’s and other professors including the immigration of Prof. Arieh Warshel, who won the 2013 Nobel Chemistry Prize and Daniel Kahneman who won the 2002 Economics Nobel Prize.


In recent years, because of anti-Semitic waves in Europe and hatred towards Jews, it seemed that immigration changed. If in the past French and British and other European Jews saw their countries of birth as the place they wanted to live in forever, it seems that young people and some families are concerned about the future and are now immigrating to Israel. In 2014, about 26,000 immigrants arrived, an increase on 32% compared with 2013, in which 20,000 people immigrated. The immigration from France is the largest immigration, with 6,600 French Jews having immigrated, an increase of 94% compared with 2013, in which 3,400 French Jews immigrated to Israel.