Natan Sharasnky (L) and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver welcomes French Jews who made aliyah. (Nati Shohat/Flash90) (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Milestone! With a population of six million, Israel now has the largest concentration of Jews in the world.

By: United with Israel Staff

The largest concentration of Jewish people, numbering more than six million, lives in Israel, compared with 5.7 million in the United States, Aliyah and Integration Minister Sofa Landver, an immigrant from the former USSR, told the Knesset’s Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs on Monday.

Committee Chairman MK Avraham Neguise, an immigrant from Ethiopia, praised the Aliyah Ministry’s achievements, adding that Israel’s mission was to bring all of the world’s Jews back home.

Landver attributed her ministry’s success to its cooperation with the Jewish Agency and organizations that assist olim (new immigrants), such as Nefesh B’Nefesh, as well as local authorities.

“We invest a lot in encouraging Aliyah, we hold fairs in the countries of origin, offer potential immigrants personal accompaniment and assistance in their job search, studies and housing,” she said.

The past year has seen a significant surge in the number of Jews immigrating to Israel as well as the return to Israel of many former residents.

“We are working to reduce administrative obstacles, and we’ve increased the number of languages available in service centers,” she told the committee. “We’ve also seen an increase in the number of olim who settle in the Negev and Galilee.”

Some 24 percent of all new immigrants, 6,917 people, settled in these regions in 2017, compared with 4,307 new immigrants who settled in there in 2016.

Increase in Support to Olim

The ministry has also increased assistance to entrepreneurs and has seen an increase in the number of businesses opened by olim as well as a significant drop in delinquency among teenaged new immigrants.

About 70,000 young olim arrived in Israel over the past decade, and a significant increase has been recorded since the establishment of the Ministry’s Youth Division. In addition, the Ministry instituted preparatory programs for the IDF, ensured the provision of monthly financial assistance to about 5,000 immigrants, increased the number of olim who are academics, and provided training courses for employment and work placement, with 84 percent of those who had participated in the placement courses already working and 66 percent employed in their professions.

Alex Kushnir, director-general of the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, highlighted the fact that 73 percent of the businesses that olim open survive after three years, while among the general population the statistic stands at a mere 58 percent.

Grants for elderly new immigrants and olim serving in the IDF reserve duty have been doubled. Support for associations and organizations for olim has been increased.

Among the 245,235 olim who arrived in Israel over the past 10 years, 29,228 made aliyah in 2017, of whom 7,239 are returning residents.

Josh Schwarcz, associate member of the executive of the Jewish Agency, lauded the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration’s activity, innovation and emphasis on services for new immigrants.