Wednesday marks the last day of 2014, and year-end figures released today by The Jewish Agency for Israel and Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption show it has been a record year for aliyah (immigration).
Around 26,500 new immigrants arrived in Israel in 2014 marking a 32% increase over last year and a ten-year high - all this despite Hamas's summer terror war against the Jewish state.
France led the list of countries of origin for the first time ever, with almost 7,000 new French immigrants, more than double the 3,400 who came last year. The sudden increase comes partially as a response to the skyrocketing of violent anti-Semitism in the country, and has led the Jewish Agency to advance programs encouraging and facilitating aliyah for French citizens.
While France may top the list, Ukraine saw the largest increase in immigrants, with numbers shooting up by 190% compared to last year and reaching 5,840. There too the increase is partially explainable by the ongoing instability and conflict in the country. However, the majority of immigrants came from stable, advanced nations.
"2014 was a year of record-breaking Aliyah. This year also saw a historic shift: for the first time in Israel's history, the number of immigrants who came to Israel from the free world is greater than that of immigrants fleeing countries in distress," said Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky.
Sharansky continued "this trend is evidence of Israel's attractiveness as a place where it's good to live, as well as of the success of our joint efforts to promote aliyah and strengthen connections between Jews around the world and the State of Israel."
"As we forecast further increases in aliyah from around the world, I very much hope the next government continues to join The Jewish Agency in maintaining aliyah encouragement and immigrant absorption as top priorities," he concluded.
French aliyah - 10,000 next year?
Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu) joined in praising the figures, saying "this year we mark a ten-year record of aliyah and a 32% increase over last year in the number of Jews who reached the conclusion that they have no other country."
"I am excited to see the fruits of our many efforts to encourage aliyah, but we have not yet reached our goal. Our ministry continues to work together with all relevant parties to promote the ingathering of the exiles, a vision that has accompanied the people of Israel since the state's establishment," said Landver.
"We expect that some 10,000 new immigrants will come from France alone next year, and we will surpass 30,000 immigrants from around the world – and even more," predicted the minister.
The year-end statistics revealed that aliyah from Western Europe, driven by the sharp rise from France, rose by 88% to a total of 8,640 immigrants.
Aliyah from the former Soviet Union rose by 50%, reaching 11,430 with the notable increase from Ukraine. Likewise, aliyah from the United States remained strong reaching 3,470, an 8% increase from last year.
Over half of the immigrants in 2014 were under the age of 35, with 5,300 of them being children. The oldest immigrant made aliyah at the age of 104 from France, while the youngest was a 20-day-old infant from the US.
Around 2,500 of the immigrants work in engineering and technological fields, and over 1,000 doctors and health professionals made aliyah, along with roughly 600 artists and athletes.