Aliya is expected to continue to grow in 2016, the Immigration Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency reported to the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee on Wednesday.
In 2015, immigration hit a 15-year high of nearly 30,000, and projections for 2016 bring the number to nearly 33,000, including 10,000 from France, 7,000 each from Russia and Ukraine, 3,000 from the US and a total of 1,500 from other English-speaking countries.
Arielle Di Porto, director of aliya at the Jewish Agency, said that most of those coming from France are young families with children. She also cited a 25 percent rise in immigration to Israel from Belgium in 2015.
Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee chairman Avraham Neguise (Likud) said the absorption of new immigrants is “a national mission and a window of Zionist, social and economic opportunities for the Jewish people, State of Israel and Israeli society.”
The numbers came up in a meeting about anti-Semitism in Europe.
Yogev Karsenti, manager of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry’s department on fighting anti-Semitism, said there were more attacks on Jews in 2015 than in any other recent year, 80 to 100% of which were perpetrated by Muslims.
Almost all of the anti-Semitic attacks came from Muslims who were born or educated in Europe, and not from refugees, he added.
In France, Karsenti said, 63% of Jews experienced anti-Semitism, and more than half of French Jews are considering leaving the country.
Karsenti criticized European governments for not effectively fighting anti-Semitism and said that there is a rise in European countries denying their part in the Holocaust.
“The best response to anti-Semitism is better absorption of immigrants,” MK Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu), a former immigration and absorption minister, said.
“The full potential of French aliya has not yet been met.”
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said: “European Jews are like a man on train tracks, with the train of radical Islam coming from one side and the anti-religious reaction of old Europe from the other.”
According to Goldschmidt, following last year’s attacks in Paris and other places in Europe, “Europe understands that Islamic terrorism is its problem, too, and not just Israel’s.”
Goldschmidt said central members of French Jewish communities are moving to Israel, and the wave of aliya will weaken those communities.
He called to strengthen them through educational and social activities.
Yury Kenner of the Russian Jewish Congress said Russia has a low level of anti-Semitism, and that it is on the decline, but that ultra-nationalist parties and messages in local media could lead Russian Jews to want to move to Israel.
“Unlike in Western Europe, the relationship between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Russia is good... except in the Caucasus, Dagestan and Chechnya,” Kenner said.
Last week, President Vladimir Putin suggested during a meeting with Jewish community leaders in the Kremlin that Western European Jews facing anti-Semitism move to Russia.