Israelis Streaming into Judea & Samaria

Michael Freund,

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Michael Freund
Michael Freund served as Deputy Communications Director in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office under Binyamin Netanyahu during his first term of office. He is the Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based organization that searches for and assists the Lost Tribes of Israel and other "hidden Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. In addition, Freund is a correspondent and syndicated columnist for the Jerusalem Post, and authors a popular blog on Middle East affairs, Fundamentally Freund. A native New Yorker, Freund is a graduate of Princeton University and holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia. He has lived in Israel for the past 19 years and remains a loyal New York Mets fan....

These are trying times for Israel, as our Prime Minister lies in a hospital intensive care unit and his fate remains uncertain.

But even in these difficult days, there was a bit of good news last week which went largely unreported but which is worthy of our attention.

At first glance, you might find it hard to believe, but the facts speak for themselves: despite the forcible eviction of thousands of Jews from Gaza this past August, the total number of Jews living over the so-called Green Line nonetheless grew in 2005.

According to statistics released last Thursday by Israel’s Population Registry, the number of Israelis living in the territories increased by 1.5% in the last six months of the year, rising from 250,179 before the Gaza withdrawal, to 253,074 at the year’s end.

Since the former figure included the over 9,000 Jews who then lived in Gaza and northern Samaria and were subsequently expelled, the increase is actually much larger than the statistics suggest.

This is a remarkable development, because it shows that the Gaza pullout not only failed to deter Israelis from moving to Judea and Samaria - it also did not push those already living there to pack up and leave, either.

Indeed, according to the Population Registry, nearly all the communities in Judea and Samaria experienced growth, with some registering double-digit expansion.

The trend, then, is clear. Even with setbacks such as the Gaza retreat, the Jewish people are continuing to return home.