Rate of non-Jewish immigration rising
By Alex Somekh, Ha'aretz Correspondent
Some 27 percent of those who immigrated from the former Soviet Union
last year were not Jewish
under the Law of Return, and 43.6 percent were non-Jewish according to Jewish law, data collected
by the Nativ liaison bureau has revealed. Jewish law states that a Jew is someone born to a Jewish
mother (or converted), while the Law of Return also covers anyone with a Jewish father, a Jewish
spouse, or a Jewish grandparent (if they are accompanied by their Jewish parent or grandparent).
The rate of non-Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union has
been steadily increasing, a
Nativ official said, estimating it as 35 to 40 percent (according to the Law of Return) during the first
quarter of 1998.
According to Nativ, which reviews the credentials of would-be immigrants
to see if they are eligible
under the Law of Return, most of the non-Jewish immigrants are relatives of a non-Jew married to a
Jew, great-grandchildren of a Jew or grandchildren of a Jew not accompanied by the Jewish parent
"The Law of Return has been breached from every point of view," a senior
official at Nativ told
Ha'aretz yesterday. "Immigrants who have a Jewish grandparent, or whose great-grandparents were
Jews, arrive with non-Jewish spouses, and the spouses then bring their relatives here. What was a
fairly marginal phenomenon several years ago has turned into a vast stream. In theory, the Law of
Return doesn't apply to them, but the state grants them the rights of immigrants anyway. The result is
that in practice, it is impossible to reject distant relatives who have no connection to the Jewish
"For the past two years, a large portion of the immigrants from the
former Soviet Union have been
people who can't adjust to the new life in Russia and are looking for refuge in a country that will
grant them minimal social benefits," the Native official continued. "All the professional organizations
involved in immigration are aware of the situation, but since this is a sensitive matter, no one dares
publicize it, among other reasons, out of fear that it would lead to the complete abolition of the Law
of Return or cause injury to the various bodies that deal with encouraging immigration.", Internal
Nativ reports classify new immigrants from the former Soviet Union as follows: One whose mother is
Jewish (Jewish according to Halacha); one whose father is Jewish (or half Jewish); and one who is
not Jewish but is related to a Jew. The latter group includes spouses of Jews and relatives of the
non-Jewish spouses. Whereas a non-Jewish spouse is eligible to immigrate to Israel according to the
Law of Return, his or her relatives, parents and siblings, are not eligible. Nativ does not differentiate
in its records between non-Jewish spouses of Jews and their relatives, and puts them all under the
category of "non-Jewish relatives."
A small group, of no more than several hundred immigrants a year, includes
Jews, or those who have a parent with a Jewish grandparent. Great-grandchildren are not entitled to
immigrate unless they come with their parents. However, the number of great-grandchildren
immigrating has grown in the past few years, reaching 2.4 percent in 1997.
From 1990 through 1993, less than 15 percent of 447,000 immigrants from
the former Soviet Union
were non-Jewish. Of 68,100 immigrants in 1994, the percentage of non-Jews rose to 16.7 percent.
Some 68.2 percent of the immigrants had a Jewish mother or a Jewish grandmother and 15.1
percent had a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother or had a Jewish grandfather.
Out of 64,800 immigrants in 1995, the numbers were 19.5 percent non-Jews,
62.9 percent with a
Jewish mother or a Jewish grandmother and 17.6 percent with a Jewish father or grandfather.
In 1996, 22.7 percent of 58,900 immigrants were non-Jewish, 63 percent
had Jewish mothers or
grandmothers and 14.3 percent had Jewish fathers or grandfathers.
The percentage of non-Jews among immigrants rose to 27.2 percent in
1997, with 56.4 percent of
of 54,600 immigrants Jewish according to Halacha and 16.4 percent with Jewish fathers or