At the end of each secular year, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics publishes statistics regarding the population in the country. This year, for instance, it noted that Israel’s population is nearly 8.8 million; this includes 180,000 births, 44,000 deaths and 27,000 who immigrated to Israel.
Of those who made aliyah, i.e., who immigrated, literally who chose to “go up”, 3,633 were from North America. From what I could find on a World Zionist Organization website, only six times between 1948 and 2000 was that number surpassed, and mostly following the 1967 war when pride in Israel’s accomplishments was highest.
A Wikipedia page notes that in 2009, a smaller number, 3324, as being the highest number of olim – immigrants – in 36 years. But last year, in 2016, according to one Jewish Federation site, it was a much smaller number – only 2,900 – of North Americans who chose to uproot themselves and move to Eretz Yisrael.
I think that this fact makes this year’s 3,633 from North America, though only 9.8% of the total number of olim, fairly significant. But the numbers of those going up is…going up.
Why they chose now, I cannot say. Nor can I speak to why 2067 other souls besides myself made aliyah in 1992. For me, it was driven by a desire to live in Israel. Reading Exodus was a huge influence, as was visiting the country, volunteering there in a yearlong program and marrying an Israeli.
Over a decade later, a year after my divorce was final, I moved back to the United States. It was a difficult decision to make as well, and I tried to keep the Israeli connection alive for my children. And though they made it back to visit, albeit barely, I hadn’t returned.
This past year, though, I made sure we all had renewed our long-expired Israeli passports. The political situation, the rising anti-Semitism, the uncertainty of the world prompted me to want to make sure they were up to date.
As it turns out, we will all be going back to visit this summer, and it is good to have our paperwork ready.
At the same time, I am incredibly curious. I look to what may be a growing number of olim in North America and want to know if there is a trend. Is it political uncertainty here in America or some other driver and will the numbers continue to increase?
In the meantime, I am beyond excited to see how much the country has changed and to introduce it to my fiancé who has never been. It goes without saying, that even if we are not “going up” as I did in the past, that making Israel’s tourism numbers go up is a good thing too.