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Aliyah up 20 per cent over year

    They are surprising statistics given that Israel is facing growing antagonism internationally.

    The last year has been a remarkable one for aliyah, with the immigration rate rocketing by a fifth, according to figures just released by the Jewish Agency.

    Some 21,300 people moved to Israel under the Law of Return in 5771, compared to around 17,900 in 5770. They came from places as far-flung as Hong Kong, Honduras, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Monaco, Suriname, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Angola, Japan, Malta, Congo, South Korea and Nicaragua.

    The explanation for the significant increase seems to be a mixture of politics, economics and smart programming for diaspora Jewish youth.

    Part of the increase is explained by a decision by the Israeli government to increase aliyah from Ethiopia - 2,780 immigrants from Ethiopia made aliyah in 5771, compared to 1,320 the year before.

    20%: Overall increase in aliyah in 5771 compared to 5770
    21,300: Number of people who made aliyah over the past year
    2,780: Number of immigrants from Ethiopia in 5771
    10%: The jump in immigration from North America

    There was an almost 10 per cent jump in aliyah from North America, which seems to be a symptom of the financial slump there - and an endorsement of the way that Israel has weathered the economic storm.

    The largest percentage increase was from the Former Soviet Union, especially from Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic States. There were 8,290 FSU immigrants in 5771, 19 per cent more than in 5770.

    This, as with aliyah from America, is an endorsement of Israel's economic situation, but it is also a vote of confidence for Zionist youth programmes.

    Taglit-Birthright and Masa, programmes partly funded by the Israeli government, which bring young adults to Israel on educational trips, have significantly upped their recruitment in the FSU in recent years. Masa has actually doubled its participation from around 500 to over 1,000.

    The statistics worldwide indicate that this kind of youth programme is having an impact on aliyah. A third of all immigrants over the past year were from the age range that the programmes target, namely 18-35.

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