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1.6.2008 | Von:

Historical development of Jewish immigration

Since the founding of Israel

Figure 1: Jewish Immigration to Israel, 1948-2006Figure 1: Jewish Immigration to Israel, 1948-2006 Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de (bpb)
For the surviving Jewish communities in post-war Europe, winning the War of Independence sent out a signal. Several thousand Jews set out for Israel. Shortly after the founding of the state there was mass immigration of Middle Eastern Jews from Iran, Iraq, Morocco and Yemen that, in some cases, resembled an exodus and led to the virtual disappearance of Jewish population groups in the countries from which they came. [4] In the first years between 1948 and 1952 alone, more than 600,000 Jewish immigrants came to Israel, doubling the total population. In the mid 1950s and early 1960s the annual total of new immigrants fell. Arrivals averaged 15,000 per year between 1960 and 1989, most of them coming from Europe and North and Central America. The biggest wave of immigration to date started after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Figure 2: New immigrants in Israel according to country of origin, 2006Figure 2: New immigrants in Israel according to country of origin, 2006 Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de (bpb)
It was characterised by the fact that almost 90% of the immigrants came from the former Soviet Union and this continues on a low level through to this day. The main countries of origin are Russia and Ukraine. Since 1989 a total of about 1.3 million Jews and non-Jewish family members have come to Israel as immigrants. In addition, a significant immigrant group in recent decades has been Jews from Ethiopia (see "Integration"). Since the outbreak of the second Intifada [5] in autumn of 2000, however, immigration has declined drastically; in the year 2006 fewer than 20,000 new immigrants arrived in Israel, in 2007 the numbe stood at just 18,000 (in comparison to an average of 73,000 per year between 1992 and 1999).

The immigration/emigration balance

Since the founding of the state, Israel´s net migration has been consistently very high. Particularly when compared with the record immigration numbers of the early 1990s, emigration figures have been of little consequence; nonetheless, there have been examples of emigration at all times: Jewish Israelis, who for family or professional reasons preferred to live, for example, in the United States or Europe; new immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were unable to cope with the climatic conditions and political clashes in the Middle East and returned home or migrated to another country after a relatively short time; as well as long-established residents grown weary of the prolonged conflict or the tense and sometimes dangerous living circumstances in Israel who were trying for a new start elsewhere. As early as 1980, results of the US American population census revealed that more than 150,000 Israeli citizens – some with dual nationality – were living in the United States, of whom about a third had been born in Israel. [6]

The flow of people out of Israel did not necessarily, however, lead to permanent emigration. Frequently it represented only a temporary transfer of the main place of residence. If we consider net migration, then between 7,000 and 12,000 Israeli citizens leave Israel each year. In the years 2001 to 2006 there were about 65,000 in total, and of these about 90 % were Jews. In each of the last three years this "demographic bloodletting" has only just been compensated for by immigration. For the year 2008, US-American estimates assume a positive net migration of just 2.5 migrants per 1,000 inhabitants. [7]

Emigration stands in direct opposition to the Zionist Ideal on which the raison d´être of the state is founded: the Jewish diaspora communities in the world were to gather in Israel – in other words, to "return home". Against this background Israelis who left their country to lead what they believed would be a more comfortable life overseas away from the wars and conflicts were often spoken of disparagingly. Yet the general increase in mobility, as well as processes of re-migration or economically driven circular migration, have meanwhile led to (temporary) emigration being regarded as a normal phenomenon. Very highly educated young adults in particular frequently work abroad for a few years, by preference in the cities of the North American west and east coasts.


This was the case, for instance, in Yemen and Iraq; the total number of Jews remaining and living in Arabic countries today is estimated at only about 60,000 (cf. Shiblak 2005).
The term Intifada refers to the violent Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The first Intifada began in 1987 and its conclusion is generally associated with the Oslo Accords of 1993. The second Intifada, also known as the al-Aqsa Intifada, began in September 2000 and ended with a formal truce at the beginning of 2005.
Cf. Eisenbach (1998)
Cf. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Fact Book (online), as at: 13.06.2008. Israel Central Bureau of Statistics data for 2007 was not available at the time of going to press.


Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl: Aktuelle Themen

Ein Kurzdossier legt komplexe Zusammenhänge aus den Bereichen Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl sowie Integration auf einfache und klare Art und Weise dar. Es bietet einen fundierten Einstieg in eine bestimmte Thematik, in dem es den Hintergrund näher beleuchtet und verschiedene Standpunkte wissenschaftlich und kritisch abwägt. Darüber hinaus enthält es Hinweise auf weiterführende Literatur und Internet-Verweise. Dies eröffnet die Möglichkeit, sich eingehender mit der Thematik zu befassen. Unsere Kurzdossiers erscheinen bis zu 6-mal jährlich.

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