January 25, 2004




23,200 New Immigrants Arrived in Israel In 2003 –

31% Less Than In the Previous Year

Table 1 - Immigrants, by Period of Immigration (1948-2003)
Table 2 - Immigrants, by Last Country of Residence
Table 3 - Immigrants, by Age Group


·               Since 1990, close to 1,117,000 New Immigrants have arrived in Israel


      In 2003:

·               A drop of 77% in the number of New Immigrants from Argentina, compared with 


·               A drop of 33% in the number of New Immigrants from the former USSR,

         compared with 2002



23,200 New Immigrants arrived in Israel in 2003, approximately 10,000 less than in the previous year (a drop of 31%). Thus, the downward trend in the number of immigrants continues. The last wave of mass immigration to Israel began in 1990, in which 200,000 immigrants arrived. In 1991, 176,000 immigrants arrived; during 1992-1996, 70,000-80,000 immigrants arrived per year; and during 1997-2000, the level stood at 60,000-65,000 immigrants per year (excluding 1999 - in which approximately 77,000 immigrants arrived - the year of an economic crisis in Russia, which caused an increase in the number of immigrants from there). It appears that as of 2001, this wave of immigration has reached its end.


Written by Ms. Yifat Klopshtock


For explanations and clarifications regarding the contents of this Press Release,

Please contact the Information Unit, at 02-652 7845, 056-235 124



It should be noted that this type of drop in the number of immigrants is, to a great extent, to be expected: a continuing wave of immigration leaves a community which is continually being depleted in the main source countries. The number of immigrants in 2003 is the lowest recorded since 1990. The extent of immigration in 2003 returns us to the level of the ‘80’s, in which 9,000-20,000 immigrants arrived in Israel per year (a ratio of 3-5 immigrants per 1,000 residents in the population). In 1989, 24,000 immigrants arrived from the former USSR.


The Immigrants’ Continent of Origin

In 2003, the continent of origin of 54% (12,600) of the immigrants was Europe, and of 12% (2,900) was Asia (approximately 90% immigrated from the Asian republics of the former USSR); which is fairly similar to 2002. However, the ratio of immigrants from the African continent rose slightly in 2003, to 14% (3,300), compared with 9% (2,900) in 2002.


This combination differs greatly from that which characterized the years of mass immigration – the ratio of immigrants from Europe was 70–90% in those years. There is a similarity in the composition of continents of origin of the immigrants in 2003, to that which characterized immigration in the ‘80’s; and it is more varied than that of the years of mass immigration (1990-2000).


Which Countries Do the Immigrants Come From?

In 2003, 12,400 immigrants (52% of all the immigrants) arrived from the former USSR, similarly to 2002. Approximately 4,000 immigrants arrived from the Ukraine, and almost 5,000 arrived from Russia. The greater decline in the number of immigrants - compared with 2002 - was from the Ukraine: a drop of 41%, compared with a drop of 26% from Russia.


3,000 immigrants arrived from Ethiopia in 2003, which constitutes 13% of all immigrants that year; a slightly higher number than that recorded in 2002.


The number of immigrants from Argentina dropped significantly from 6,000 (17% of all the immigrants) in 2002, to 1,400 in 2003 (6% of all the immigrants) – a drop of 77%. With that, the number of immigrants from Argentina returned to the dimensions which characterized immigration from that country most years during the period of mass immigration.


In 2003, 1,800 immigrants arrived from France and 1,700 from the USA – which constituted no significant change compared with 2002.


The Age Structure of the Immigrants

Of all immigrants in 2003, 22.5% were in the 0-14 age group. This ratio of the young is slightly higher than that recorded in most years of the mass immigration period. However, it is lower than that of the total population of Israel (28.4%), or of the Jewish population (26%).


The 15-64 age group constituted 68.4% of all immigrants in 2003, which is slightly lower than their share in 2002 (70.3%). During the wave of mass immigration this group’s share rose from 64% to 70%.


The ratio of older immigrants (65 and over) among total immigrants in 2003 stood at 9%, with no change from 2002. However, this percentage is low compared with most years of the mass immigration wave which began in 1990, and was lower than the ratio of this age group in the total Israeli population during 2003 (12%).


The median age of immigrants in 2003 was approximately 28, compared with 29.6 in 2002.


Male and Female Immigrants

As in previous years, so too in 2003; immigration continued to be made up mostly of women – 907 men per 1,000 women. As can be expected, as the age rises so does the number of men to 1,000 women drop (among those aged 75 and over, the ratio of men per 1,000 women is 624). Among the total population of Israel the ratio is 974 men to 1,000 women (and at age 75 and over, the ratio is 674 men to 1,000 women).



First Domicile in Israel

In 2003, similarly to 2002, the Southern District was the preferred first place of residence of the immigrants (24% of immigrants). Second in 2003 was the Northern District (18%), whereas in 2002 the second preference was the Central District. The least popular place among immigrants in 2003 was the Tel Aviv District (only 11% of the immigrants), whereas in previous years the least popular place was the Jerusalem district.


Immigrants’ preferences change in accordance with their countries of origin: among those from the former USSR, 23% settled in the Southern District (2,900 immigrants), 20% in the Central District (2,400 immigrants) and 18% in the Haifa District (2,200 immigrants).


Among immigrants from Ethiopia 43% settled in the Northern District, and 34% in the Southern District. Immigrants from France prefer the Jerusalem District – 30% of them settled there (540 immigrants), 25% chose the Southern District (440 immigrants) and 22% the Central District (400 immigrants). 55% of immigrants from the USA preferred the Jerusalem District (930 immigrants), 14% the Judea and Samaria area (230 immigrants) and 10% the Central District (160 immigrants). 38% of immigrants from Argentina settled in the Southern District (500 immigrants), 27% in the Northern District (370 immigrants) and 17% in the Central District (230 immigrants).


It should be noted that the distribution of each immigrant group differs from the distribution of the veteran population in the country (see Diagram 3). The highest percentage of the veteran population is found in the Central District (26%); after that, in the Tel Aviv District (22%), the Southern District (15%), the Haifa District (12%), the Jerusalem and Northern Districts (10%) and, finally, the Judea and Samaria Area (4%).


In 2003, with regard to cities preferred as their first domicile, there were also differences among the immigrants. Among those who immigrated from the former USSR, Haifa remains the preferred city as their first domicile – approximately 8% of them (1,000 immigrants) chose it. The second preference was Be’er Sheva, with approximately 6% (800 immigrants) choosing it; and the third was Ashdod, with approximately 5% (680 immigrants). 15% of immigrants from Ethiopia (470 immigrants) chose Tzfat as their first place of residence, and another 15% chose Mavasseret Zion (which has a large absorption center). Among immigrants from the USA, 40% (660 immigrants) chose Jerusalem as their first domicile, 13% of them settled in Beit Shemesh (220 immigrants) and 3% each in Tel Aviv and Ra’anana (60 immigrants in each one). 30% of immigrants from France (490 immigrants) also chose Jerusalem, with Ashdod (260 immigrants) and Netanya (200 immigrants) trailing behind.

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