Study: Fewer Israelis Leaving Long Term, More Returning

An El Al flight seen taking off from Ben Gurion International Airport. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90

A historic trend that has plagued Israel since its inception shows signs of slowing down, and even reversing. Whereas in previous decades thousands of Israelis would leave the country every year, that trend has declined to the point where fewer Israelis left the country for extended periods that at any time in the past decade.

An Israeli who “left” is defined by the government as one who went abroad “for one year” and did not return. 14,300 Israelis who left in 2017 did not return by the end of 2018. That was 6% fewer than the 15,200 who left in 2016, and 25% fewer than the 19,100 who left in 2008.

Meanwhile 8,400 Israelis who had been living abroad for more than a year returned to Israel and stayed for a year, so the country “lost” just 5,400 people. Of those who returned, some 64% were abroad for up to three years, indicating that they were abroad for studies or an extended vacation.

According to government statistics, there are currently 732,000 Israelis who have been abroad for at least a year and not returned. That figure covers all Israelis who have emigrated since the establishment of the state, and includes those buried abroad, estimated to be between 131,00 and 171,000.

The number of living Israelis believed to be abroad at the end of 2017 was between 561,000 and 599,000. That figure does not include children born to Israelis abroad who have not registered as Israeli citizens.