Fleeing Crisis, 63 Argentine Jews Arrive in Israel

Sixty-three Argentine immigrants arrived in Israel on Tuesday, choosing Israel's unstable security climate over Argentina's economic insecurity.

Street protests, looting and rioting erupted last week in Argentina, leaving 26 dead and forcing the government of Argentine President Fernando de la Rua to resign.

More than 20,000 Argentine Jews are expected to arrive in the next five years, said Ilan Arkitechter, director of an Immigration Ministry absorption center.

A quarter of Argentina's 200,000 Jews live below the poverty line, said Yehuda Weinraub, a spokesman for the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, which coordinates immigration to Israel.

"The situation is very hard," said Sara Leibovitch, a former school principal who arrived with her husband and son "There are many people planning to come."

According to the Jewish Agency, approximately 1,700 Jewish families lost their homes because of Argentina's deteriorating economy this decade.

Argentina's Jews may not be headed for greener pastures in the Mideast.

Fifteen months of Palestinian-Israeli violence have taken the lives of 242 people on the Israeli side and 849 on the Palestinian side, frightening away tourists and investors.

The global economic slowdown and violence have plunged Israel's economy into a recession, with unemployment reaching 9.4 percent, high for Israel but only half Argentina's 18 percent jobless rate.