Aliyah soars as crunch bites

By Marcus Dysch, June 4, 2009

The recession has seen the largest influx of British Jews making aliyah for a quarter of a century.

The Jewish Agency for Israel and the immigration charity Nefesh B’Nefesh are predicting a “historic year” with the number of British olim expected to reach 800, the most since 1984.

Their forecast follows figures released this week showing that 201 people made aliyah from Britain between January and April, an increase of 53 per cent on the same period last year.

Danny Oberman, NBN’s executive vice-president of Israeli operations, said: “It’s a reflection of the economic situation.

“We are meeting people who are very pessimistic about the amount of time it will take for the Western economies to recover and for them to live a comfortable life. In Israel, they can do that now. We are feeling very positive.”

The best month of the year so far was March, when 81 Britons moved, three times the number in March 2008.

Around two-thirds of the olim are married. Two-thirds also define themselves as Orthodox, with one-third Reform. Most are families, either middle-aged parents and teenage children, or younger parents with babies. A quarter are pensioners.

The biggest increase from diaspora communities has been in Britain. Aliyah from South Africa increased by 24 per cent, from North America by seven per cent and France by five per cent in the first quarter of the year.

Rafi Nassi, Jewish Agency director in London, said the financial benefits of moving to Israel — new olim are exempt from paying tax on income from abroad for ten years — were most advantageous for those leaving Britain.

“In March we had about four times the number of people making aliyah. It’s a win-win situation. Israel gets a good number of olim, and even if they do not pay tax, there is a financial benefit to Israel of them moving.

“I have met people who have had to delay their aliyah because they could not sell their home in Britain, and many who have moved because the recession is not as bad in Israel as it is here.”

Mr Oberman said: “People are not moving overnight. They have considered it for many years but now the climate means they do not see the point in hanging around in the UK.

“The state of Israel’s real estate and banking is nowhere near as bad as in Europe and North America. All these qualified people are a real shot in the arm for the Israeli economy.”

NBN’s Go North scheme offers English-speaking immigrants financial incentives to move to the Golan and Galilee in northern Israel.
Grants of up to £15,260 and vehicle subsidies are available to help olim, as well as help finding employment and social services assistance. Neil Hart made aliyah on Monday with wife Alexandra and 18-month-old son Aidan.

The family have moved from Brondesbury Park, north London, to Tel Aviv, where Mr Hart, 31, will work as a management consultant.

“It was a group of things that drew us to Israel in the end,” he said. “We had decided over the last couple of years that we did not want to be in the UK. Israel offers a huge amount. The biggest thing that struck us was a lifestyle choice.”

Figures released in Israel in January showed 2008 to be the worst in two decades for immigration.

The falling number of olim was put down to the Israeli government capping the immigration of Ethiopian Falash Mura, and a slowing down of Jews leaving the former Soviet Union.

Last updated: 2:04pm, June 4 2009