Cabinet to Vote on $29 Million Plan to Attract European Jews to Israel

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu singing the national anthem with new immigrants in August 2012. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Within the next few weeks, the cabinet will be asked to approve a special plan aimed at enticing European Jews, especially those living in Ukraine, to immigrate to Israel.

The plan, prepared by the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, would allocate a total of 100 million shekels ($29 million) over the next two years to financial incentives and outreach efforts targeting Jews who are feeling less secure and considering relocation because of rising anti-Semitism and the economic downturn in Europe. The goal is to persuade them to make Israel their destination of choice rather than other countries.

The money required to execute the plan would come from funds already raised by the Jewish National Fund.

According to the plan, a special agency would be established to actively promote immigration from Europe. This entity would include representatives of Jewish organizations that are already active in Europe: the Jewish Agency, United Israel Appeal, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund. Their outreach activities would include organizing information sessions and job fairs for potential immigrants and putting together brochures and other publicity material. An estimated 70 million shekels would be set aside for these activities, which would be spearheaded by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry. The money would also be used to cover the costs of additional staff as well as for office space in European cities where these organizations already have a presence.

An additional 30 million shekels would be allocated to the ministry for financial incentives aimed at facilitating a smooth relocation for the immigrants after their arrival. According to the proposal, these would include a grant of 15,000 shekels to 18,000 shekels per family, beyond the support levels currently provided to immigrants. Part of the funding would go toward new or upgraded Hebrew-language immersion centers for the new immigrants and subsidized childcare.

According to the latest ministry figures, immigration from Ukraine more than doubled in the first five months of the year, to 1,541, from 697 in the same period of 2013.

“Israel, which is a nation of immigrants, must be prepared to absorb immigrants from around the world, especially at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in many places,” said Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver. “By launching this project at this time, we are signaling to the world the place that Israel holds for world Jewry.”

Landver said she also intends to submit for the cabinet’s approval a special plan to ease the absorption of new immigrants into Israel’s job market. This plan includes removing obstacles to getting their professional credentials recognized as well as an affirmative action program for new immigrants who apply for jobs in the public sector.

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