aliya 298 nefesh benefes.
(photo credit: Nefesh Benefesh)
Some 5,700 emigrants have returned to live in Israel in 2005, according to the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. This figure represents a significant jump from the 5,000 returning citizens in 2004, and eclipses the 3,052 new immigrants from North America this year.
But those were only the registered ones.
"We estimate that there are an additional 5,000 returning Israeli citizens who came back in 2005 who did not register with us," ministry spokesperson Tamar Abramowitz said.
Asked what drove some 10,000 Israelis who had left to make their lives elsewhere give Israel a second chance, Abramowitz replied, "They have come to the conclusion that Israel is the only place that they can truly feel at home. A common theme among many returning citizens is that they would prefer to raise their children in Israel."
The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption is set to launch a campaign in the United States to encourage ex-Israelis to come back home as the vast majority of those who had returned were living in the US.
"I'm optimistic that the number of returning citizens to Israel will continue to rise in the future," Abramowitz said.
2005 was also a banner year for immigration to Israel, and not just for returning citizens. For the first time since the outbreak of violence, some 23,000 new immigrants will have moved to Israel by the end of the year, the Jewish Agency said.
Jewish immigration from North America increased 15%, to 3,052 from 2,640. This is the highest since 1983, when 3,806 North American Jews moved here.
French aliya made an even bigger jump, with 2,980 immigrants in 2005 an increase of 23% over last year's 2,415.
There was a 10% decrease in aliyah from the Former Soviet Union this year as opposed to last year, but Russian aliyah increased slightly this year. There was also a 26% jump in Belarusian immigration to Israel.
1,850 South American immigrants moved to Israel this year compared to 1,348 last year, an increase of 37.2%.
British aliya increased 4%, with 453 British Jews arriving compared to the 435 who arrived last year.
3,700 Ethiopian immigrants came to Israel in 2005, similar to last year's figure.
On Wednesday, the final Nefesh B'Nefesh flight of 2005 is expected to land in Israel, carrying 220 new immigrants from the United States and Canada. It is the seventh Nefesh B'Nefesh flight to bring immigrants to Israel in 2005, the most flights the organization has operated in a single year since its first flight in the summer of 2002.
As well, it's cool to come to visit Israel again: 2005 saw 29,712 teens and young adults participating in short-term programs such as birthright israel and Israel Experience compared with the 28,882 who did last year. Participation in long-term educational programs increased by 37% in 2005 - 5,583 young people compared to 4,058 in 2004.
Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski said that "after the difficult years that we've experienced, we believe that the improvement in the security and economic situation will strengthen the sense of security and together with the new strategic implementation of the 'Aliya By Choice' initiative that the Jewish Agency is enacting we will succeed in increasing aliyah numbers in 2006 as well. I am happy that so many people are choosing to come to the State of Israel."