JERUSALEM — The number of Soviet Jews who emigrated to Israel in 1991 was less than half the predicted total of 400,000, immigration officials said Thursday.
The approximately 140,000 Soviet Jews who arrived in 1991 represented a drop of 23% from the 1990 figure, Absorption Minister Yitzhak Peretz said.
He noted that 20,000 immigrants were airlifted from Ethiopia in 1991, more than 14,000 of them in one 36-hour period during the civil war in that African nation.
Simcha Dinitz, head of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency immigration organization, said the disintegration of the Soviet Union could spur higher emigration in 1992.
"If the situation continues as it has, we will reach at least the same figure, around 150,000, but it is possible to reach 300,000, to double the figure."
Other officials blamed the Gulf War, bleak Israeli employment prospects and cuts in stipends for newcomers for the drop in Russian emigrants.
"The financial situation (of the former Soviet Union) is most severe, the political situation clouded, anti-Semitism there is on the rise," Israel Television said.
"But the Jews of the Soviet Union apparently consider the situation here in Israel to be even more severe."