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Jews’ reverse immigration from Israel is on the rise

October 6, 2023 at 11:45 pm

Israeli passport [KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images]

As Israeli problems escalate and are expected to have internal and external repercussions, more and more Israelis have been lining up in front of European embassies in Tel Aviv to apply for European passports. Western tourist offices revealed that there is an increase in the number of Israelis trying to obtain other passports, in addition to their Israeli ones. More calls have been made to emigrate from Israel because of the internal crisis after liberal Israelis expressed their interest in immigrating.

Portuguese Immigration Service announced that 21,000 Israelis have applied for its citizenship since the beginning of the year, ranking first among other nationalities. Immigration offices have become a destination address for thousands of Israelis, and there has been a 10 per cent increase in the number of new inquiries regarding Portuguese, German and Polish nationalities since the formation of the current government.

Media outlets and social media networks have published a lot of material talking about Israelis’ immigration and new passports’ requests. The most common word in Google searches in Israel has become “moving out”. A Facebook group called “Leaving the Country – Together” has been formed recently and announced that they have decided to organise groups to leave Israel in light of the changes witnessed.

READ: Fearing religious gov’t, group calls for migration out of Israel

Since November 2022, following the Israeli elections, there has been a significant increase in the number of applications submitted for citizenship of European Union countries. A European citizenship would give its holders the opportunity to live, work and study throughout the EU. In recent months, there has been a 10 per cent increase in new Israeli applications for German citizenship, and the same for obtaining Portuguese citizenship. The French embassy in Tel Aviv also revealed that there is a similar increase in the number of applications to obtain French citizenship.

The European Union office in Tel Aviv acknowledged that there had been an increase in the number of new people wishing to obtain the nationalities of its countries, while the United States Embassy refused to answer a question about whether there has been a change in the number of applications to obtain its nationality. Considering the tensions witnessed inside of Israel recently, the main concern worrying thousands of Israelis has become their search for the name of the country whose passport they will obtain. They have been preoccupied with questions such as: which countries would grant them passports without complications, how much money would it cost and which countries had eased the conditions for granting their passports?

Israelis believe that obtaining one of the European nationalities is one of their most preferred options, because they feel that it opens a window of opportunity for them. Travel and immigration offices are deliberately tempting Israelis who wish to obtain a foreign passport in exchange for investment. They have circulated explanatory flyers on social networks using sponsored advertisements.

Perhaps what encourages Israelis to obtain European passports is that there are 28 countries located within the European Union; the passport of any one of them allows its holder to enter the largest number of its countries without procedures, and enables them to live in all of Europe, study there for free, and pass this privilege on to their children, considering this to be a form of security. Recently, indicators showed that there has been an increase in the number of Israelis wishing to obtain European passports, and their numbers have reached unprecedented levels, in addition to an increase in their inquiries to obtain immigration visas and permanent residency.

While some Israelis link this phenomenon to the judicial legislation being implemented, others believe that the reason is the high cost of living in Israel. Among those who have been monitoring this phenomenon are the embassies of France, the Netherlands, Romania, Portugal, Spain, Germany and Italy, which announced that, during the past months, there has been an increase in requests to obtain their passports.

In virtual reality, Facebook and WhatsApp groups dealing with the issue of obtaining a foreign passport in preparation for immigration from Israel have increased. The threat to the Israeli political system has prompted many Israelis to think of an “escape plan”, pushing them to start inquiring about possible destinations for immigration. Many posts have been published seeking advice and practical answers about immigration.

READ: Israelis plan to immigrate to the US due to incoming right-wing gov’t

Israelis are afraid of what is happening, and there is an increase in the percentage of applications for foreign citizenship. They are rushing to obtain foreign passports because Israel is no longer a suitable place to live in. Israelis are wondering about good places to buy real estate and places to transfer their money for investment. They are paving the way for immigration. Giora Shalge, former president of the Rafael Defence Systems affiliated with the Israeli Ministry of Security, revealed that he and his grandchildren are no longer enthusiastic about staying in Israel.

Up until recently, immigration from Israel was considered an act that amounted to treason, but this has changed now, and the result is that obtaining a second passport at this stage is considered by most Israelis a kind of insurance for the coming days.

In conjunction with the new phenomenon of Israelis obtaining foreign passports, a Jewish movement called “Leaving the Country – Together” seeks to recruit 10,000 Israelis to leave Israel, against the backdrop of the legal coup. Yaniv Gorlik, one of the activists in the demonstrations against Netanyahu and, with him, an activist from the Zionist Congress, Mordechai Kahane, an Israeli-American businessman, decided to help the Israelis leave for America. The movement believes that the time has come to provide an alternative to the Zionist movement in case the situation in Israel continues to deteriorate, because the results of the recent elections and the current government’s actions may destroy Israel.

The movement calls for moving to a farm in New Jersey, where it has received dozens of applications for immigration from secular Israelis who run small technology companies and want to move their offices to the US. There has been an increase in the numbers of people who want to leave the country for various reasons, as they face a divided country and fears of civil war. Many Jews are convinced that they have no future in Israel. Ongoing activities may be the beginning of their farewell as they increasingly talk about packing their luggage and leaving if the situation becomes more dangerous than it is now.

While Israel is actively trying to bring thousands of Jews from around the world to Israel, immigration data from within Israel to the outside show a sharp jump in numbers, in what can be called “reverse migration”, for various reasons. The total number of Israelis who immigrated to other countries and currently reside abroad reached 756 thousand at the end of 2020. The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics said that between 572-612 thousand Israelis live outside the country, and this estimate does not include the number of those born abroad. This has, once again, revived Israeli fears of a decrease in their numbers.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.