Global aliyah is up 55 per cent, due largely to dramatic increases in immigration from France and Ukraine, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky announced yesterday.
The Jewish Agency estimates French aliyah will surpass 5,000 by the end of 2014, an all-time record and a full 1 per cent of the 500,000-strong French Jewish community. It will be the largest proportion of a Western Jewish community to make aliyah in a single year.
Mr Sharansky said: "Never in the history of the state of Israel has there been a Jewish community in the free world that has sent such a large proportion of its Jews to Israel. We cannot take responsibility for the fact that so many Jews and so many French young people in general are leaving France, but the fact that Israel has become the number one destination for young French Jews is a testament to our success in connecting them to the Jewish state."
Mr Sharansky noted that the Jewish Agency's Israel experience programmes, including Masa Israel Journey and Bac Bleu Blanc, for teens, have attracted record numbers of young French Jews over the past two years, adding that it is The Jewish Agency's responsibility not only to facilitate French Jewish aliyah but also to strengthen Jewish life in France.
According to Jewish Agency figures, a total of 7,912 individuals have made aliyah since the beginning of the year, compared to 5,092 during the comparable period in 2013 - a 55 per cent increase. This number does not include aliyah from Ethiopia, the pace of which is determined by the government of Israel. There were 713 Ethiopian Jews who made aliyah during this period in 2013, a number that dropped to 143 this year due to the conclusion of Operation 'Dove's Wings'.
From France, 2,254 Jews made aliyah during the first five months of 2014, compared to 580 during the equivalent period last year, a 289 per cent increase. The first five months of the year also saw a dramatic increase in aliyah from Ukraine, with 1,587 Ukrainian Jews immigrating to Israel, compared to 684 during the same period in 2013 - a 132 per cent increase.