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Experts: Aliya unaffected by fear of war with Iran

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Is war talk bad for aliya (immigration)? Probably, but how much has the endless debate over a possible conflict with Iran affected Jewish immigration to Israel so far? Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) Chairman Nathan Sharansky made headlines Sunday saying "dozens" of would-be olim are deferring plans to move because of the crisis over the Islamic Republic\’s nuclear program, but experts were quick to say on Monday that so far such a trend, it it exists, has been relatively negligible.
"So far none of the studies we have done have indicated such an outcome," said an official dealing with aliya who asked to remain anonymous because the source did not want to disagree publicly with Sharansky.
Steven M. Cohen, a well-known sociologist and expert on Jewish demographics, said he was not aware of such a trend.
"Prospective olim delay their plans to make aliyah all the time, just as people delay any important and momentous decision," he wrote in an Email. "Unless officials have been seeing a large uptick in delays or unless they\’ve spent some time interviewing potential olim as to the reasons for any change in plans, we would have no way of knowing if unusual delays are occurring or why they may be occurring. Anything is possible, of course. But any speculation of this nature needs to be backed up with evidence."
Sharansky told Israel Radio on Sunday that one prospective oleh from an unnamed country told him "we will make aliya when the threat of nuclear war passes."
"For months we have had dozens of cases where people have canceled their aliya after arrangements that had already been made –where they will live and all that– and suddenly they tell us they have postponed it by a few months," Sharansky said.
The story was picked up by The Associated Press and ran in major US media outlets like The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.
JAFI on Monday maintained the chairman\’s statement was based in fact, but said the trend remained small.
"In recent months JAFI emissaries are reporting dozens of cases where aliya appliance are asking to defer their arrival," it said in a statement. "This is still a tiny percentage in comparison with the number of olim who come to Israel each year. Still, every such person who delays his arrival is a huge loss to the country."
By comparison, some 19,000 olim made aliya to Israel in 2010 and a similar figure is expected this year.
The Jewish NGO would not say which part of the world the said cancellations were from. Nefesh B\’Nefesh (NBN), an organization facilitating aliya from North America, declined to comment on Sharansky\’s statement for this article.
Nonetheless, an anecdotal survey of olim on NBN\’s recent flight from New York, organized in cooperation with JAFI and the Ministry of Absorption, did not seem to indicate newcomers from North America were preoccupied with the Iranian threat.

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