The Curse of ‘Yordim’: Why Israeli Jews Are Leaving the Country

The departure of Jewish immigrants from Israel is not a new phenomenon. (Photo: Rakoon, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Following the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine on February 24, a large number of Jews decided to immigrate to Israel under the so-called Israeli Law of Return, which allows every Jewish person in the world to immigrate to Israel and acquire citizenship.

At the end of 2022, the Jewish Agency published data regarding the number of new immigrants who arrived in Israel, boasting that the country welcomed around 70,000 new immigrants, the largest number of immigrants in 23 years.

Expectedly, most of these newcomers arrived from Ukraine and Russia. 

The problem for Israel, however, is not with new immigrants, but rather with the phenomenon known in Hebrew as ‘Yordim’ – ‘Yerida’ means ‘descent’ – a term used to describe Jews who leave the Jewish state. 

According to Israeli statistics, two months after the start of the war in Ukraine, about 1,800 Russian Jews – out of the 5,600 who benefited from the ‘Law of Return’ – actually returned to Moscow with their Israeli passports. This means that a third of the Russian Jews who arrived in Israel rushed to leave the country. 

Following the November elections, which resulted in the formation of the most extremist government in Israel’s history, the number of Israeli citizens who sought European citizenship significantly increased. 

For example, Israelis applying for French citizenship increased by 13 percent; Portuguese authorities recorded a 68% increase in citizenship applications from Israelis, and the Polish and German authorities recorded a 10% increase in the same applications over the past two months.

The departure of Jewish immigrants from Israel is not a new phenomenon. 

Between 1948-1950, 10% of Jewish immigrants promptly left the newly established state. 

To slow down the reversed immigration, the Israeli government enacted tough measures often denying exit visas to Israeli applicants. Despite the restrictions, by 1967 more than 180,000 Israelis had immigrated. 

During the 1970s, fears of war, economic stagnation, and strong Palestinian Resistance, a sharp decline in immigration to Israel was recorded, forcing the Jewish Agency to close three immigration centers in the United States alone. 

In the past decades, the deteriorating security situation was a major reason for reversed immigration, especially during the Palestinian Intifadas – uprisings of 1987 and 2000 – which prompted some immigrants from the former Soviet Union to leave Israel for other countries. 

According to the Israeli Hebrew newspaper Maariv, up to 2020, more than 756,000 Jews left Israel to live in other countries. The reasons given include the deterioration of the economic situation, inequality, and disappointment due to the faltering peace settlement with the Palestinians, in addition to the escalation of Palestinian Resistance operations. 

It was no coincidence that the number of immigrants from Israel exceeded the number of arrivals to it on more than one occasion during the years between the First Intifada of 1987 and the Al-Aqsa Intifada of 2000. 

(, Palestine Chronicle)

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1 Comment

  1. The security issue may be a small concern but the main reason is the wildly overcrowded high cost pressure cooker environment which means people are basically chasing their own tail. The cost of property, and basic foods and essentials mean that only the very rich or very successful can afford to live there without racking up huge debts.

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