The number of new olim arriving in Israel is on the rise, and the approximately 30,000 new immigrants expected to make Aliyah in 2018 are lucky. Thanks to the basket of services they receive from the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, in partnership with other government ministries and The Jewish Agency, the current new arrivals benefit from significantly upgraded services and financial assistance designed to make the transition to their new home as smooth as possible.
Around 60% of the new olim in 2018 will be from the Former Soviet Union, with Russia in first place, followed by Ukraine. The third largest contingent is from France and the fourth from the United States. Events in France as well as in Ukraine triggered a significant increase in Aliyah from these countries starting from 2014.
Minister of Aliyah and Integration Mrs. Sofa Landver points out that three factors contribute to successful integration into Israeli society: “The first is employment, the second is the children’s education, and the third is language (knowing Hebrew).” In recent years, the Ministry has invested considerable efforts in these fields, and it is proud of the results.
Alex Kushnir, Director General of the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, is also very proud of the fact that the Ministry is undergoing a digital revolution and becoming more service oriented. “All the information is going to be much more accessible,” he promises. “By the end of this year, we will launch our revamped website, where all information will be fully available in six languages: Hebrew, English, French, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese. From now on, each new oleh will have a ‘personal online zone’ that will contain all the information that is relevant specifically to them, and all the correspondence and bureaucratic paper work will be conducted online. The only face-to-face meetings will be focused on guidance and consultancy.”
These days, most of the olim are young – approximately 65% are of working age – and most are well-educated professionals. “This poses a challenge,” says Kushnir. “We try to find ways for them to fulfill their potential in terms of their careers. We’ve developed many job solutions that are relevant for their education and background, as well as for their professional dreams,” he adds.
The Ministry operates 14 Employment Centers throughout the country, which provide guidance to new olim in their native languages and assists them in finding suitable job placements. Every year, the Ministry successfully helps around 8,000 newly arrived immigrants find work in their chosen field.
“In addition, we offer olim about 2,700 different courses designed to help them fit in to the local job market and we subsidize 80% of their cost. For professions that require Israeli licenses, such as doctors, lawyers and accountants, we help them through the qualifying process and provide full translations of their documents,” Kushnir points out.
One of the flagship programs is “Aliyah 2000,” which is run in partnership with The Jewish Agency. Approximately 1,300 new olim are selected for the various programs every year prior to their Aliyah or after they have arrived, including nurses, doctors, teachers, lawyers and other professionals. They receive housing and a stipend, learn Hebrew, and receive professional training or retraining. At the end of the process, they are guaranteed a job in their field.
Since most new olim are at a relative disadvantage when applying for jobs, the Ministry of Aliyah provides incentives for employers to hire olim, following the initiative of Mrs. Landver. Through the “Employment Promotion” program, the Ministry subsidizes their salaries on condition that the employers continue to employ them for at least one year – thereby enabling the olim to gain professional experience in Israel.
The Ministry’s Entrepreneurs Division also aids and supports olim who wish to start their own businesses. “We have Guidance Centers where we teach them how to write a business plan, conduct market research, etc. Also, we counsel them on tax issues and we even provide loans of up to NIS 250,000 at very low interest rates and a one-year grace period,” Kushnir elaborates.
Programs for different groups
Since many of the new arrivals are families with children, the Ministry of Aliyah is intent on helping young olim integrate as smoothly as possible in their new schools. Special projects are in place to help these kids bridge both language and knowledge gaps, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Regional Councils. In all, approximately 5,000 children participate in these programs.
The Ministry has also revolutionized the way immigrants of all ages learn Hebrew. A more flexible system has been added to the traditional “ulpan” model; olim can choose where and when they prefer to learn Hebrew, and their studies are subsidized. A new program encourages prospective olim to learn Hebrew before they arrive in Israel, and there are now 400 ulpan classes around the world for people planning Aliyah.
Another subject which Kushnir says is close to his heart is the Ministry’s support of “lone soldier olim” – 500-600 young adults per year who make Aliyah and join the IDF. In addition to a monthly stipend, the Government accompanies them from the moment they arrive and throughout their military service, and even afterwards.
In addition, the Government supports approximately 6,000 new olim students annually by paying their full tuition throughout their academic degree and by assigning mentors. A special program for student olim enables them to give back to the community: they volunteer with children or with elderly or disabled people and in return receive a stipend.
The Ministry of Aliyah also provides incentives for immigrants to settle in the Negev and Galilee. Families who remain in these regions at least two years receive benefits totaling NIS 20,000. “In the past year, the number of olim settling in the periphery has doubled, from 7% of all immigrants in 2016 to 14% in 2017,” Kushnir notes with satisfaction.
Three years ago, the Knesset passed a law establishing an annual “Aliyah Day” as an official national holiday in Israel. Since then, Aliyah Day is celebrated on the seventh day of the Jewish month of Heshvan, which coincides, appropriately, with the Torah portion “Lech Lecha,” during which God bequeaths the Holy Land to the People of Israel as their eternal heritage.
Aliyah Day, which this year took place on October 16th, is marked in schools, on television and in a variety of events and activities throughout the country. This year, the highlight was a large event at the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv, which included special NIS 15,000 prizes for outstanding olim who made unique contributions to Israeli society, as well as a play about olim in Israel.
For more information, go to: www.moia.gov.il/English