The growing range of services for immigrants in Modi'in is a reflection of a new approach to immigration to Israel, says Uri Barner, deputy director of Western aliyah at the Jewish Agency.
"Realizing that aliyah from countries in distress is on the decrease, the Jewish Agency and the government of Israel must develop new programs for 'aliyah of choice.' This is a whole new concept whereby immigrants decide to come here because we have something to offer," he says.
According to Barner, ideology no longer plays the central role it once did in generating aliyah from the West.
"We live in a post-ideological era. Once the Holocaust, the creation of the state, Zionism were very much the driving forces. Today, if we want to encourage aliyah of choice, ideology is important but is not sufficient to drive people to come to Israel. They have to identify with Israel, too, and see that they will be effectively absorbed.
"Once we understood this, we realized we must develop new aliyah and absorption products. Our clients - the olim - have their own will and wishes and agenda. To increase aliyah, we must understand what is important to them and try to offer things that might be effective for them. This is where Modi'in comes into the picture.
"We expect it to really take off in 2007, especially with South Africans," he forecasts.
Barner says the Jewish Agency is particularly keen to promote the city as an aliyah destination to Reform Jews in North America. This group, which makes up some 45 percent of the community there, has been the least inclined towards aliyah, he says.
"We need something attractive to them. Modi'in seems to be perfect. There's a young and dynamic Reform community where they can continue their lifestyle. That's why we were so keen to expand the 'klitah kehillatit' program to North Americans there."
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