South Africans leading aliyah in Western world

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South African emigration to Israel in the first quarter of this year, is double that of last year’s figure for the same period. South Africa now represents the highest per capita migration from any country in the Western world.
by ANT KATZ | Jun 02, 2017

South Africa is one of the only Diaspora countries that has shown a growth in the first quarter. With 129 olim arriving in Israel between January 1 and March 31, the numbers were up by 109 per cent on 2016 figures. This trend is expected to continue throughout the year.

There has been a rapid rise of aliyah from South Africa over the past few years, according to Aviad Sela, the Israel Centre shaliach. He points out, however, that this rise does not mean that more members of South African Jewry are emigrating.

Historically, says Sela, Israel was low on the list of destinations for South African Jews. “Today,” he points out, “it is becoming their destination of choice.” He says the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) which operates as the Israel Centre in Johannesburg and Cape Town, has “seen this growth trend - people from South Africa who want to make a future in Israel”.

In the decade from 2005 to 2014, the average number of South Africans making aliyah was just 75 per year. Earlier this year, Jewish Report published figures showing that in 2015, 230 people did so - and in 2016, the number of olim rose to 272.

Looking ahead, Sela says April slowed down due to the impact of Pesach tourism leaving fewer seats available on El Al. He maintains that these numbers will pick up in May and June and shouldn’t slow down the second quarter.

The number of new aliyah files opened this year, indicate that the 100 per cent growth could be sustainable for the whole year.

Historically, August is the biggest month for olim to leave, as the Israeli academic year starts on September 1. At this stage, over 50 people are scheduled to make aliyah in that month and this may well increase to 75 in one month, according to Sela.

National Director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Wendy Kahn, told Jewish Report that there is no source of empirical evidence regarding migration, both in and out of SA, of Jews. The Board however picks up trends from anecdotal information and statistics like school enrolments, she says, from which they had noted a modest increase in emigration.

The South African community’s number one spot was attained partly because its figures have increased while other Western countries’ numbers have declined.  

The countries Israel classifies as being in its “Western” region includes Western Europe and the Anglo-Saxon world (North America, Oceania and South Africa).

Within the group, France leads the pack with 679 olim in the first quarter. However, that figure is 20 per cent down on the first quarter of last year. After Israel and the US, France has the third largest population of Jews in the world. The core Jewish population is 465 000, with another 135 000 who are born Jewish but not involved in the community. 

Aliyah from the United States - with its core population of at least 5,3 million - declined by over 20 per cent this year, from 428 to 337. The United Kingdom’s number - the country has some 300 000 Jews - also declined from 136 between January and March 2016, to 101 this year.

“I am happy to see that so many of the people who are looking to leave South Africa are choosing Israel,” says Sela.

Israel puts those making aliyah into two categories, namely  those who move to Israel by choice and those in the emergency category, who are fleeing war zones, anti-Semitism or collapsing economies.

Leading aliyah-by-choice stakes in the past quarter, were 1 970 Russians.

In the emergency aliyah category were 1 361 Jews who fled the Ukrainian war zone and the 233 Brazilian Jews fleeing their country’s collapsing economy.



  1. 2 Choni 02 Jun
    Great news! Come on local Rabbis; Let the youngsters go (to Israel)
  2. 1 Nwakpa Amechi Bernard Henry 03 Dec
    This is indeed awesome, marvelous and supernatural. It is obvious that the Lord is gathering his people according to the scriptures all over the world to the holy land of Israel.
    I'm glad that this is happening at such a time as this.
    I want to use this opportunity to bring to the notice of Gods people behind this heavenly mission that there are a lot of forgotten Jewish people in Eastern region of Nigeria west Africa known as "IGBO PEOPLE" where I came from.
    It will my pleasure if I'm giving the opportunity to participate in  actualizing this mission from my region to Jerusalem.
    I look forward to become part of this mission to enable us come back home Israel.
    I pray for the peace of Jerusalem in Jesus Name.
    Shabbat Shalom!


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