AliyahIsrael National Radio photo

Aliyah to Israel rose by nearly 20% during the Hebrew calendar year of 5771, compared to the previous year, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry announced Thursday. Over 21,000 immigrants settled in the country since last Rosh Hashana, with the majority from the former Soviet Union and North America. Immigrants also arrived from Europe – mostly France and Britain – and South America. The Ministry also said that some 2,800 immigrants came from Ethiopia, double the number in 5770.

Nefesh B'Nefesh continued to be the main conduit for immigrants from North America; in July alone, the organization brought 700 olim to Israel. Besides helping families and individuals with aliyah plans, NBN has also been holding job fairs for potential olim, and the strong Israeli economy as compared to the current weaker economy in the U.S. and Europe, according to aliyah activists, has been a factor in spurring more interest in aliyah.

According to experts, if there is one factor that has been holding back aliyah, especially from North America, it is the high price of real estate in Israel. Prices in many oleh communities especially are high, a result of misguided government building policies over the past decade, as well as limited to no building in many communities in Judea and Samaria, creating further pressures on housing prices.

As a result, North American olim have been moving to communities far afield, in parts of the country that had not been on the “radar” of immigrants from the U.S. and Canada and where housing prices are more reasonable – places like Carmiel, Ma'alot, and Nahariya. Earlier this month, Nefesh B'Nefesh hosted an event for olim who, as part of the organization's “Go North” program, have moved to these areas, with over 500 people participating. An additional 62 olim from the U.S. are set to settle in Carmiel during September, the organization said. Over the past year, 395 NBN olim settled in northern Israel, 200 of them in Carmiel.