Israelis in Australia
People from the region of present-day Israel have been settling in Australia since the 19th century. Australia first recorded immigrants from Israel in the 1954 census. However, Israeli migration patterns in subsequent decades are often hard to trace due to the complex movement of families over multiple generations. For example, many first moved from post-war Europe to Australia, then to Israel, and in some cases back to Australia. The flow of Israel-born people to Australia has been steadier in the last two decades, with a few hundred people estimated to be arriving each year. According to the 2016 census, there are approximately 9,817 Israel-born people living in Australia. However, some members of the Israeli community believe this figure is much higher.
The vast majority of Israelis live in Victoria (44.3%) and New South Wales (36.6%). This is also reflected in the settlement patterns of Australia’s Jewish population, who mostly reside in either Victoria (46.4%) or New South Wales (40.5%). Numerous organisations in these states and their respective capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne support and enrich Australia’s Israeli population. Many of these organisations tend to be Jewish, due to the longstanding connection between Australia’s Jewish communities and Israel (see below).
Australia’s Israeli population is quite diverse. For instance, Hebrew is spoken at home by half the Israel-born population in Australia (53.5%) while 29.8% speak English, 7.7% speak Arabic, 2.9% speak Russian and 5.6% speak other languages. Additionally, 62.0% identify as Jewish, while just under a fifth (17.3%) identify with no religion. Of the remaining population, 5.4% identify as Catholic, 2.9% identify as Eastern , 1.4% identify as , and 4.7% identify with some other religion. The Israel-born population in Australia is also highly educated, with 69.4% of those over the age of 15 having completed some form of higher non-school qualification. Moreover, approximately 40% have completed a bachelor's degree or higher. Over half of the population (65.1%) are employed in a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation.
Australia's Jewish Communities and Israel
Jewish communities around the world often hold emotional attachment and respect for the State of Israel. Australia is home to a number of Jewish communities, with approximately 91,000 people identifying as religiously Jewish in the 2016 census (0.4% of the total population). However, this figure may be an underestimation of the total Jewish population due to ambiguities around ‘Jewish’ as a religious or identity marker (see Ethnicity and Ancestry in Core Concepts), as well as fears of recording their identity. Approximately 12% of Australia’s Jewish population were born in Israel.1
Some members of Australia’s Jewish communities feel a sense of ambivalence or hostility towards Israel for various reasons. However, the majority express a deep attachment to the country.2 Australian Jews commonly maintain a connection to Israel by visiting the country to see family or undertaking a religious pilgrimage. Indeed, many Jewish families in Australia have extended family members living in Israel due to the long-lasting effects of WWII and the Holocaust. Australia’s Jewish community may also maintain links to Israel through moral or material support. For example, Jewish communities often participate in a variety of social, political and fundraising functions and activities.
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