These encouraging statistics from the Jewish Agency are part of a total of 23,000 new immigrants who arrived in Israel in 2005.
Overall, 9,124 Jews came to Israel from the former Soviet Union, – a 10 percent drop compared to 2004. With that, however, came a rise in Aliyah from Russia, while immigration from Belarus rose by 26 percent from last year.
A total of 3,700 Jews immigrated from Ethiopia, the same as last year, and 1,850 immigrants arrived from South America – a rise of 37.2 percent.
Immigration from Britain also saw a small rise, with 453 Jews arriving from the United Kingdom.
There has also been a rise in the participation of youths from around the world in short and long-term educational programs taking place in Israel, with 29,712 young people taking part in such programs, compared to last year's 28,822.
Long-term programs have seen a rise in participation of 37 percent – 5,583 students and youth took part in them, compared to 4,058 in 2004.
This coming Wednesday will see the last plane with immigrants touch down, containing 220 new arrivals from the United States and Canada. This is the fourth plane to arrive as part of a joint operation between the Jewish Agency and the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization.
The Immigrant Absorption Ministry, responsible for encouraging Israelis living abroad to return to Israel, reported a 15 percent rise in the number of Israelis who returned in 2005.
The Ministry said 5,700 Israelis returned to Israel this, compared to 5,000 in 2004.
Responding to the statistics, Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski said: "I hope that this year will mark a turnaround in Aliyah and the arrival of youths for educational programs. After the years of hardship we witnessed, we believe that the improvement in the security and economic situation will increase the sense of security, and together with the realization of new strategies of the 'Aliyah by choice' program, we'll manage to increase the number of immigrants in 2006 as well. I'm happy that so many people are choosing to come to the State of Israel."
'Everyone wants to help here'
One of the tens of thousands of immigrants to join us this year is Hedva Krausa, a 24 year-old young woman who made Aliyah from New York five months ago and currently lives in an absorption center in Raanana. Despite the difficulties she is forced to deal with, she is happy to be living in Israel.
"We lit Chanukah candles in the absorption enter, and it’s a very special atmosphere," she said. "Also, the fact that on Friday mornings everyone says Shabbat Shalom and knows that Shabbat is a day of rest, even if you're not religious. When they hear I'm a new immigrant, on my own in the country, everyone invites me for meals and opens up their homes, including people who don't know me. Everyone here wants to help, there (in American) it's not like that," said Hedva.
However, Hedva says she has not yet gotten used to Israeli bureaucracy.
"If you don't shout and ask then you don't get (what you want.) Also, they close government offices without giving reasons. Like the post office that's sometimes open and sometimes closed without logic. If you don't understand something and don't ask a precise question, you won't get the answer. In the U.S, you get a lot of information," she said.