Citing the need to replenish Israel's 'brain drain' - the massive flight of the country's academics and scientists seeking higher-paying jobs abroad - Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer praised a group of recent Western immigrants for making Israel their new home.

"We need a variety of people with your skills and background," Fischer said at the August 1 "Brain Gain" event at Tel Aviv University, organized by the not-for-profit Gvahim, which prepares highly-skilled immigrants for the Israeli workplace. "You represent the opposite flow."

The 68-year-old Fischer, a U.S. citizen born in Zambia, also noted Israel's need to replenish the wave of highly-educated professionals who came from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. "They are aging, and we need to replace them," said Fischer, a former MIT professor who once served as chief economist at the World Bank.

It is estimated that 25 percent of Israeli scientists work abroad, according to the Council for Higher Education in Israel's planning and budgeting committee. Fischer, while noting that immigrants traditionally come to Israel for reasons rooted in Zionism and religion, expressed the hope that future arrivals will be motivated by other, less ideological factors. "I basically think that it will be best for our nation when people will want to come because the quality of life here will be better than that of Western nations," he said.

"Zionism isn't something for which one should have to pay a high price," added Fischer, reminding his audience that he is an economist. "I still believe that as long as something costs less, more people will want to acquire the product." (Mordechai I. Twersky )