JERUSALEM (Aug. 30)
For the first time in many years, the number of returning Israelis exceeded that of Israelis leaving the country, Absorption Minister David Levy said at a press conference here yesterday.
Levy said that balance was reached last year when 22,900 Israelis returned to the country, in comparison to about 10,000 who left the country in the same period. He said 6662 came back as part of a special program launched by the Ministry of Absorption on the occasion of Israel’s 30th anniversary, with the assistance of aliya and absorption institutions. The others came back on their own.
The plan to encourage Israelis to return home began in January 1978 and is scheduled to end at the end of this month. According to Levy, within the framework of the plan, some 12,000 returned in that period. Some 30 Israelis were returning daily, he said.
But Jewish Agency sources said yesterday in reaction that only some 4500 registered as returning Israelis in the period discussed. They did not know how Levy compiled his figures.
It is understood that the gap between the Absorption Ministry figures and that of the Jewish Agency stems from differences in definitions. Levy included in his count all Israelis who had spent more than two years overseas as well as all those who returned married to new immigrants. If those two groups are subtracted, the number of Israelis who spent more than four years overseas (the usual definition for yordim) and who return to Israel, the number is 4300.
Using the same statistics, Levy claimed that the number of returning Israelis in the period discussed exceeded in some cases those of the number of immigrants. For example, some 6100 Israelis returned from North America. The number of immigrants from that part of the world was 5125 in the same period.
Levy said that according to Central Bureau of Statistics figures, the number of Israelis who left the country last year and are expected to stay overseas for a longer period did not exceed 10,000, a decrease of 21 percent compared to the year before.