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Soviet Aliyah Surpassed 180,000 Last Year, Breaking Old Records

January 3, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Just over 35,000 Soviet Jews immigrated to Israel in December, bringing total Soviet aliyah for 1990 to more than 180,000.

The United Israel Appeal said total Soviet immigration for the year was 184,195, while the National Conference on Soviet Jewry put the total at 181,759.

In either case, that is the highest yearly total on record. More Soviet Jews arrived in Israel over the last 12 months than in the previous 21 years combined, since NCSJ’s Soviet Jewry Research Bureau began keeping records of Soviet Jewish emigration in October 1968, observed Shoshana Cardin, the organization’s chairman.

“We are gratified that a record 35,070 Soviet Jews arrived in Israel during December,” said Cardin. She said it is a figure that “demonstrates that the Soviet Union continues to live up to its international commitment to provide for free emigration for its citizens, including its still sizeable Jewish population.”

Cardin said while her organization is “delighted” with the unprecedented emigration rate from the Soviet Union, it expects Soviet authorities to “live up to their human rights obligations” by enacting long-promised emigration reform legislation.

She also urged the Soviet government to implement the agreement it signed in 1989 for direct flights from Moscow to Tel Aviv.

The massive Soviet aliyah contributed significantly to the population growth in Israel last year, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics in Jerusalem.

It estimated the present population of Israel at 4,882,000, a 5.7 percent increase in the last 12 months and the greatest annual population growth since 1951.

Soviet aliyah was responsible for nearly 30 percent of that increase, the Israeli statistical bureau reported.


Newcomers in fact exceeded natural growth. Immigrants, mainly from the Soviet Union, numbered 199,526 in 1990, compared with 104,000 children born in Israel during the year.

The immigrants also included 4,153 Jews from Ethiopia, including 535 who arrived in December, according to Daniel Allen, assistant executive vice chairman of the United Israel Appeal. UIA is the U.S. representative of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which funds the transportation costs and a portion of the initial absorption expenses for new immigrants.

David Magen, Israel’s minister of economics and planning, said that at the present rate, the Jewish population of Galilee will in two years outnumber the Arab population for the first time.

He predicted there will be 600,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs in Galilee by 1993. Two years ago, 335,000 Jews and 383,000 non-Jews lived there.

Meanwhile, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, sounded a note of alarm this week when he called for an immediate emergency plan to “evacuate” millions of Soviet Jews.

Writing in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Netanyahu, a Likud Knesset member, cited the volatile, unpredictable economic and political situation inside the Soviet Union.

He warned that with the rise of right-wing, anti-Semitic sentiments as the authority of the central government seems to weaken, there is no knowing how long it will be possible for Jews to leave the Soviet Union.

In the event of a collapse in the Soviet Union “2 or even 3 million” Jews will want to leave for Israel at once, he said.

The emergency plan must focus on the logistics of exit through additional points of departure and transfer, Netanyahu said. It must contemplate the lodging of newcomers in tent cities near public service buildings that would serve them.

The deputy foreign minister urged emergency legislation to free state-owned lands for the settlement process. He also called for legislation to overcome bureaucratic delays or, failing that, to invoke wartime emergency regulations.

(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondents David Landau in Jerusalem and Hugh Orgel in Tel Aviv.)

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