Israel Approves New $17 Million Plan to Promote Immigration

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French high school students during a trip to Israel.Credit: JAFI

The cabinet on Sunday approved a new $17 million (NIS 60 million) program to promote immigration from Europe, specifically Ukraine and France. The program will target Jews currently considering relocation because of rising anti-Semitism and economic hardships.

Half the sum will be used to set up a special type of corporation, known as a public-benefit nonprofit, which will be fully owned by the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization. This corporation will engage in outreach activities, such as organizing information sessions and job fairs for potential immigrants in various European cities and putting together brochures and other publicity material.

The other half of the sum will be transferred to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, where it will be earmarked for financial incentives aimed at facilitating smooth relocation for the immigrants after their arrival in Israel. This includes special grants for immigrants coming from areas considered to be danger zones, like Ukraine, as well as new or upgraded Hebrew-language immersion centers and subsidized childcare for the new immigrants. These incentives will be made available to any Jews from Europe who immigrate to Israel from July 1, 2014 through December 31, 2015.

The cabinet also approved the establishment of a new committee that will present recommendations on improving employment possibilities for new immigrants. The committee is expected to focus on removing existing bottlenecks that prevent new immigrants from transferring their professional certification to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting that the purpose of these measures was “to signal to world Jewry that we want you here.”

Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver noted that since the beginning of the year, the number of new immigrants arriving in the country was up 18 percent compared with the same period last year. “Israel, which is a land of immigrants, must be prepared to absorb immigrants from around the world, most certainly in wake of rising anti-Semitism,” she said.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said Sunday that he expected more than 5,000 French Jews to immigrant to Israel by the end of this year – a full 1 percent of the French Jewish community. Addressing the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Sharansky said: “Never in the history of the State of Israel has there been a Jewish community in the free world that has sent such a large proportion of its Jews to Israel.

According to Jewish Agency figures, 2,254 Jews from France immigrated to Israel in the first five months of the year – almost four times the number registered in the same period last year. The number of Jews immigrating to Israel from Ukraine during this period more than doubled to 1,587.

Also addressing the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Alexander Levin, the president of the World Forum of Russian-Speaking Jewry, said there was no evidence of anti-Semitism among members of the new government in Ukraine. “A large portion of the members of the newly elected government are Jews,” he said. “The presence of the far right is far more felt in France, Austria and other Western European countries than in Eastern Europe.”

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