JERUSALEM (JTA) – Some 16,500 Jews from around the world have made aliyah in 2008, a 16 percent drop from the previous year.
The 6,100 immigrants from the former Soviet Union accounts for 35 percent of the olim. Some 3,250 of the immigrants came from Western Europe, or 20 percent, with 3,150 from the United States and Canada, or 19 percent.
The number of Ethiopian immigrants fell to 1,700 from 3,600 because of Israel’s decision to halt the immigration of Falash Mura. French aliyah dropped as well because of the Jewish community’s comfort with President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Immigration from South Africa nearly doubled to 350 from the previous year.
Eli Cohen, the director of the aliyah department of the Jewish Agency, predicts a "serious increase" in aliyah from around the world in 2009. Some reasons he cites are the new programs instituted by the Jewish Agency and Israel’s Ministry of Absorption to help immigrants, as well as the influence of the world economic crisis.
"The stability of the State of Israel could encourage potential olim to settle in Israel, so they can secure their children’s future and make their homes here," Cohen said.
Small numbers of new immigrants in 2008 also came from far-flung countries such as China, El Salvador, Uganda, Angola, Martinique, Andorra and Gibraltar.
There have been 3,041,714 immigrants to Israel since the founding of the state in 1948.