One quarter of Israel's population and a third of its workforce are immigrants, according to a new report prepared for the Knesset.
The report was presented Monday as the Knesset hosted close to 400 European Union members, among them former presidents and leaders who are in in Israel as part of a lobbying group known as The European Friends of Israel (EFI).
The group's members were exposed to a number of significant differences between Israel and their own countries regarding immigration, in discussions with members of the Knesset's Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee.
“We do not call them 'refugees,' acting committee head and Yisrael Beiteinu MK Lia Shemtov said, pointing out that Jewish immigration to Israel is a national goal.
"Every Jewish 'oleh' (Jewish immigrant) is returning to the land of his forefathers, to his historic homeland, and the authorities here are enlisted in order to help him with education, health, housing and welfare," Shemtov said.
Since the founding of the State in 1948, some three million Jews have immigrated to Israel, according to the statistics, with some 60 percent of them arriving from European countries.
Sixteen percent are from African countries, 14 percent from Asian nations, and eight percent from the Americas and Australia.
In the first three years of the state's independence, between 1948 and 1951, two main waves of aliyah (Jewish immigration) brought 600,000 new residents – doubling the nation's population. This caused an enormous logistics problem and food shortage, but Israel managed to absorb the newcomers despite reeling from the 1948 war begun by the Arab nations surrounding the country. In addition, some 400,000 Jews immigrated to Israel from former Soviet Union countries between 1990 and 1991, with a total of some 1.2 million olim arriving since the fall of the Iron Curtain to the present day.
According to the statistics, the number of olim from western industrialized nations has steadily increased, particularly from the US and Canada.
While between the years 2000 and 2001, only 1,800 Western Jews made aliyah to Israel, in the past six years, 3,000 have arrived annually.
Addressing the parliamentarians, Kadima MK Marina Solodkin noted that every oleh has the right to vote from their first day in Israel, and added that, “In comparison to the United States, even the prime minister does not have to be native-born, and the day will soon come when an immigrant will hold the highest office in Israel.”
In making her prediction, Solodkin may have forgotten that this is nothing new: all of Israel's prime ministers except Yitzchak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu were immigrants.