Immigration to Israel from Ukraine, Russia jumps amid conflict

Refugees fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine to Israel via Romania
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - More than 31,000 people from Ukraine and Russia have emigrated to Israel since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, a massive increase from a similar pre-war period, official data showed on Wednesday.

Between Feb. 24 and July 31, Israel received 12,175 new immigrants from Ukraine and 18,891 from Russia, the Central Bureau of Statistics said, citing data from the Immigration Ministry.

That's 318% higher than a similar period in 2019 when a total of 9,774 new immigrants arrived from the two countries.

Most of the immigrants from Russia and Ukraine are Jews, but some may only have close relatives who are Jewish. Under Israel's Law of Return, a person needs at least one Jewish grandparent to be entitled for immediate citizenship.

Some 63% of Ukrainian immigrants are women, while those from Russia were largely split evenly between men and women.

The fighting in Ukraine has killed thousands, devastated a number of cities and driven one third of Ukrainians from their homes. Russia has been isolated by unprecedented Western sanctions imposed over the invasion.

Israel has a large Russian-speaking population of more than 1.3 million - around 15% of the population.

The statistics bureau also said that in 2021, immigration to Israel - called aliyah in Hebrew - rose nearly 30% from 2020 to 25,497. Half of the immigrants came from former Soviet republics, mostly from Russia and Ukraine. About 14% each - or around 3,500 - came from the United States and France.

In 2019, the last year before the coronavirus pandemic, Israel recorded 33,247 immigrants.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Mark Heinrich)