Israel emigration taking off again after 12-month lull

By Simon Rocker, June 21, 2012
New immigrants arriving in Israel

New immigrants arriving in Israel

Aliyah from the UK appears to be making a recovery after a dip in the figures last year.

Compared with 852 Britons who went to Israel in 2009 and 788 in 2010, only 562 made the journey in 2011.

But Raffi Nassi, head of the Jewish Agency in the UK, said that the first five months of this year showed a 30 per cent increase on 2011, with 258 having left for Israel by the end of May in contrast to 198 for the same period last year.

Mr Nassi said: “We can’t say what the cause was [for the figure] last year. But I believe it was to do with the economic situation.” Lower property prices in the UK would have meant that people had less money to take with them to Israel when they sold their homes.

The years 2009 and 2010 had been “exceptional”, he pointed out, and 2012 was shaping up to match them.
Over the past 25 years, aliyah from the UK had averaged around 560-580 annually, he said. But the 2011 figure is still significantly higher than the low of 316 in 2003.

Mr Nassi said that the Jewish Agency was putting more into promoting aliyah this year, while a new World Zionist Organisation-sponsored campaign to encourage it, Habayta, or “Home”, has also recently launched here.

Habayta runs pilot trips to Israel for potential olim. It recently took over a group of Bnei Akiva graduates.

The aim of the trips, said Rama Bor, director of Habayta’s UK office, was to give “a first glance of how real life in Israel will look, focusing on three main subjects that are the most challenging — accommodation, education, and employment.

“They’ll meet people who have made aliyah from the UK and potential employers, and visit different villages and cities willing to support olim.

“If there is a group which wants to visit a specific place, school or university, we will be more than happy to arrange that.”

...and gap years bounce back, too

The number of teens on gap years in Israel has bounced back after a slump last year when students opted to beat the rise in university tuition fees.

There have been just 54 participants on long-term Zionist youth programmes in Israel this year compared with 162 the previous year.

But the UJIA now expects there will be 110 to 120 on gap programmes in Israel over the next year.
Some groups have cut costs for gap-years, with FZY, for example, offering its classic programme for £10,599 in 2012 compared with around £12,000 last year.

Numbers in Israel Experience schemes for 16-year olds are also up, from 1162 in 2011 to 1221 this summer.
Ilan Scorah, UJIA programmes co-ordinator, said that UJIA continued to invest “significant funding” in means-tested bursaries for summer schemes, with one in four participants receiving financial assistance.

Last updated: 10:54am, June 21 2012