CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Israelis living abroad returned in record numbers during 2008, exceeding new immigrants by 50 percent.
In 2007, 4,535 Israelis moved home from abroad, while 9,000 returned in 2008, representing a whopping 95 percent increase.
Despite the surge in returnees, immigration was off by 25 percent this year, dropping from 20,000 new arrivals in 2007 to 15,000 in 2008.
South African Jews were the exception, with a 90 percent increase in the number of new arrivals.
The North American aliyah (immigration to Israel under the Law of Return) was slightly down, while immigration from the UK decreased by 16 percent.
There was a 19 percent increase from Australia and New Zealand, while only half the number of Ethiopian Jews were allowed to come, compared to the previous year.
Jews from the former Soviet Union made up 35 percent of the nation's new immigrants.
Meanwhile, the number of returnees is expected to rise substantially as the impact of the global financial crisis is felt.
"We expect to see the results of the crisis next year when the number of returnees may even top the current record," Absorption Ministry director-general Erez Halfon told the Israeli daily Haaretz.
"According to our projections, which rely on the number of applications we are handling, we will see the arrival of another 12,000 returnees by 2010," Halfon said.