JERUSALEM (Apr. 4)
First-quarter figures show immigration to Israel is up slightly this year, but officials here are reluctant to draw conclusions about whether this signifies a changing trend.
They say the unstable picture in the republics of the former Soviet Union, which are supplying the bulk of the immigrants, injects too much uncertainty into the process to predict patterns, even for the rest of the year.
One spokesman for the Absorption Ministry went so far as to say said he doubted immigration would reach the projected and budgeted for level of 120,000 immigrants this year.
In March, 7,146 immigrants arrived here from around the world, with 6,120 coming from the former Soviet Union. That was up slightly from February, when 5,408 in olim arrived, including 4,612 from the republics.
In addition, 2,979 immigrants from the Soviet successor states arrived in the United States last month under the government’s refugee program, according to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in New York. That is a slight increase over February’s total, but still smaller than January’s figure.
The March figures bring immigration to Israel from the republics for the first quarter of this year to 16,796. That is slightly ahead of where aliyah was at this time last year, when 15,383 immigrants arrived from the former Soviet Union in the first three months.
“The general trend of the last six months (shows) an interest in immigration as a result of the political and economic crises” in the former Soviet Union, said Yehuda Weinraub, spokesman for the Jewish Agency for Israel.
“But we’ll have to see if the interest is sustained,” he added.
“It is a little too early to generalize from the recent figures,” agreed an Absorption Ministry spokesman. “I am not sure the flow will get stronger. We should wait and see.”
Absorption Minister Yair Tsaban was visiting Ukraine on Sunday and was asked his prediction about this year’s trends. According to the spokesman, he said the flow of immigrants from the republic would increase if the current economic instability there prevails.
Tsaban was on a trip to Russia, Ukraine and Moldavia, to observe the emigration process and to check on the needs of prospective immigrants.