Aliyah Still Declining, but Expected to Rise Shortly

Despite a recent downturn in aliyah, the Soviet Union is continuing to pump thousands of immigrants into Israel, and officials of the Jewish Agency for Israel expect the numbers to increase in the coming months.

According to figures released this week by Israel’s Absorption Ministry, 10,584 new olim arrived in October, including 9,845 from the Soviet Union and its former Baltic republics.

In New York, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry said that an additional 8,861 Soviet Jews were granted Israeli entry visas in October.

And the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society reported that another 3,891 Soviet Jews entered the United States in October under the American government’s refugee program, a slight dip from last month’s high of 4,163.

NCSJ’s Soviet Jewry Research Bureau noted that the October Soviet aliyah figure represents a slight decrease from September, when 9,877 Soviet Jews arrived in Israel.

Soviet immigration here has been declining since June, when it surpassed 20,000. Nevertheless, the cumulative figure for the year to date stands at 125,402, up from 1990′s corresponding figure for the period of 121,503, the National Conference said.

According to figures released last week by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Soviet immigration during the third quarter of the calendar year totaled 30,250, down from 54,250 in the second quarter. Immigration officials blamed reports of high unemployment in Israel for the sharp drop.

Nevertheless, Israel’s monthly immigration now averages 10,000. By the end of December, the figure for the year is estimated between 170,000 and 180,000 newcomers.

A STEADY EXODUS

But starting early next year, a slight but progressively upward trend can be expected, according to Dr. Baruch Gur, director of the Jewish Agency’s Soviet Union and Eastern European operations.

Since the abortive Communist putsch in August, the Jewish Agency has seen an 11 percent increase in the number of requests for Jewish emigration papers, Soviet exit visas and passports, Gur told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

There is a steady exodus from the Soviet Union’s Moslem republics. More than 94 percent of the Jewish population there wants out, and their destination is Israel, he said. There also has been steady Jewish emigration from the Ukraine and Byelorussia in the past six months, he added.

Another factor likely to contribute to an upward trend in Soviet aliyah is the inauguration this month of direct El Al and Aeroflot flights from Moscow, Leningrad and Kishinev to Tel Aviv, the first of which was to arrive Tuesday.

“Today, 70 percent of all Soviet immigrants reach Israel via Eastern European land routes. But this percentage is expected to drop dramatically as the number of olim reaching transit destinations at Budapest and Warsaw declines,” said Gur.

“Soviet immigration to Israel, therefore, may steadily increase as Soviet domestic, economic and political instability grows, and if Israel is able to provide increasing numbers of jobs for its unemployed newcomers,” he said.

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