JERUSALEM, Israel - More than 19,000 new immigrants will have chosen to make Israel their new home in 2010 - a 16 percent increase over 2009, according to official forecast statistics released this week ahead of the end of the year.
According to the figures released by the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency - responsible for immigration to the Jewish state - and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, this is the second year in a row that the number of new immigrants increased after a 10-year decline.
"I am very pleased to see the statistics pointing to a rise in aliyah [immigration to Israel under the Law of Return] from almost everywhere in the world, particularly in light of the campaign of de-legitimizing Israel happening around the world," Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said in a statement.
"Many of the new immigrants are young people from free countries who feel they belong to the State of Israel and chose to build their lives and the lives of their children here," Sharansky said.
The average age of the immigrants was 29 and the oldest this year was 99. Just over half of the new immigrants are male.
Sharansky said The Jewish Agency would continue to develop programs to strengthen the connection between young Jews abroad and the State of Israel with the intention of increasing the number immigration to the Jewish state.
Israel's Law of Return allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate to the Jewish state.
About 7,700 - some 40 percent - of the new immigrants came from the Former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Germany, while 3,980 of the newcomers will have come from North America - a six percent rise over last year. They also came from Latin America, France, Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, Ethiopia, Australia, New Zealand, China, India and elsewhere.
Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said the increase in immigration was possible due to the "fruitful cooperation" between groups that deal with immigration and absorption.
"We ran revolutionary projects, such as creating the link between the potential oleh [immigrant] and his or her Absorption Ministry coordinator while he or she is still abroad, providing new immigrants with their necessary documents, such as ID cards, as soon as they land, various aliyah promotion programs, etc.
"We will continue to do all we can to make sure aliyah continues to rise and the absorption process is as best as it can be," Landver said in a statement.