Israeli officials have dismissed as erroneous a report claiming that only 14% of those who immigrated to Israel in the past 8 years were Jewish.
Both the Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA) and the Jewish Agency said on Monday that the figures published by the Reform-backed Hiddush organization were incorrect, and that most of the immigrants are Jewish.
“The Jewish Agency rejects the data published in articles this morning reporting erroneous data on the number of Jews making Aliyah and their eligibilty. These articles are harmful and insulting to the hundreds of thousands of Jewish Olim who are living out the…dream of building their future and their children’s future in Israel.
“To the best of our knowledge, the source of the information cited in the articles is not reputable and Jewish Agency data presents a different picture altogether. As we recently reported, the past decade brought over 255,000 new Olim to Israel from 150 countries.
“Take as an example the erroneous information reported about France: In complete opposition to what was reported this morning, according to Jewish Agency data nearly 97 percent of Olim from France are Jews according to halacha…”
Such claims are “totally wrong,” Professor Sergio DellaPergolla, a demographer at Hebrew University, told the Times of Israel. “It doesn’t make much sense or match the Central Bureau of Statistics’ data.”
What lay behind the false report?
A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry’s Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration said that there appeared to be an error in the figures provided to Hiddush, and that the numbers would have to be re-examined, Arutz Sheva reported.
But the misreporting may have just as well been driven by the organization’s anti-Orthodox agenda.
Hiddush argued that the data shows “how urgent Israel’s need to be released from the Chief Rabbinate and religious coercion truly is.” It accused the Jewish Agency of having “chosen to gloss over the true reality of the Jewish people today, reflected in immigration data,” and called on the government to implement civil marriage and divorce.
However, there is no doubt that the number of non-Jews entering the country is far from negligible.
As DellaPergolla said, while there is a high rate of non-Jewish immigration to Israel, “it does not make any sense that over 70% of those who come from the U.S. and France are not Jews and 96% of those who come from the former Soviet Union are not Jews,” as Hiddush claimed.
Still, the trend is disturbing. Last December, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported that 2018 was the first year in Israel’s history in which Jewish immigrants to Israel were outnumbered by non-Jewish immigrants.