Olim on a Nefesh B'Nefesh Flight.
Olim on a Nefesh B'Nefesh Flight. Photo by Tomer Neuberg
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Between 2005 and 2012, the state transferred 106 million shekels ($30.7 million) — 95 percent of the budget for promoting aliyah — to one organization — Nefesh B’Nefesh, which encourages immigration from English-speaking countries, the state comptroller reported.

In a chapter of his annual report devoted to the promotion of immigration to Israel, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira noted that of the 113 million shekels ($33 million) budgeted for the purpose over the eight years, 95 percent went to Nefesh B’Nefesh, with no evaluation ever made of the group’s effectiveness. Moreover, even in 2012, when the criteria for funding were changed to allow other nonprofit organizations that promote aliyah to receive funding, Nefesh B’Nefesh still received 91 percent of the budget.

In gauging the effectiveness of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Shapira found that the percentage of French Jews immigrating to Israel was seven times that of American Jews. Yet 86 percent of the total immigration budget was allocated to support aliyah from the United States, 25 times what was allocated to French aliyah. The state has never set criteria for measuring the effectiveness of these activities, the comptroller noted, adding that the state must do so.

In October 2012, Haaretz ran an investigative report on Nefesh B’Nefesh, which was founded in 2002. Over the years, the organization — which is headed by an old friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tony Gelbart — gained a monopoly on encouraging immigration from the U.S. To support this activity, the state gave it huge sums of money, which went, among other things, to fund executive salaries.

Yet immigration from the U.S. has not risen substantially and has never come close to the organization’s goal of 10,000 immigrants a year.

Nefesh B’Nefesh said, “The state comptroller’s report does not raise even half a complaint or a criticism against the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization.

“The Nefesh B’Nefesh organization will continue, as it has in the more than a decade since it was founded, to aid and encourage new immigrants to come to the State of Israel, in full cooperation with the Israeli government, including the Immigration and Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency. We will continue our Zionist mission to grant all immigrants the maximum assistance possible, to make the immigration and absorption process easier and to be a bridge for them to the Israeli bureaucracy."