Gov't, El Al Sweeten Deal for Returning Israelis

The Immigrant Absorption Ministry and El Al Airlines have reached an agreement whereby the national carrier will provide special benefits to Israelis residing abroad who move back to Israel during this 60th anniversary year, it was announced yesterday.

El Al will charge returning Israelis a flat air-fare rate from all its destinations, and will allocate 100 preferred seats each month on El Al flights.

Returning residents who use El Al also stand to benefit from a substantial discount on shipping their belongings to Israel. On flights from the United States, passengers over 2 years old will be allowed three suitcases weighing up to 23 kilos, instead of the usual two. Passengers returning from anywhere else in the world will be permitted extra baggage weighing a maximum 35 kilos.

The agreement signed with El Al is part of an Immigrant Absorption Ministry campaign to encourage Israelis living abroad to return home, which includes economic incentives for anyone who returns during the state's 60th year.

Among the perks being offered are tax breaks for a period of 10 years, a rebate of the payment for receiving health insurance services, extensive help with finding work, and programs for absorbing doctors, scientists and other researchers.

According to the ministry's director general, Erez Halfon, some 3,000 Israelis have returned since the beginning of the year, out of 8,000 registrants.