A reversal of the trend in Israel's immigration policy: Minister of Immigrant Absorption Ofir Sofer recently approved the recommendations of the professional echelon in his ministry to reduce the budgets earmarked for encouraging aliyah from the former CIS countries in order to promote aliyah from Western countries, primarily France and the United States, Israel Hayom has learned.
The first work plan for which the new policy is implemented is "Israeli Horizon." It is a subsidiary of the Jewish Agency, which is controlled and supported by the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption. According to the decision of the ministry's director-general, Avichai Kahane, the budget allocated to promoting aliyah from Russian-speaking countries will be cut almost in half, and will drop from NIS 8 million to NIS 4.5 million. In the first stage, the funds will be directed mainly to encouraging immigration from France.
Minister Ofir Sofer (archive photo), photo: Oren Ben Hakon
"To direct the state effort in directions that require it"
Sources in the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption told Israel Hayom that the background to the turnaround is the lack of need to encourage aliyah from Russia and Ukraine, from which about 55,000 people arrived in the past year. On the other hand, there has been a consistent decline in immigration from Western countries, partly because in previous years Israel did almost no action to encourage immigration from these countries.
"Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, 100,000 people from Israel and Russia have immigrated to Israel," explained a senior official in the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. "On the other hand, both from France, where there are about 200,000 Jews, and from the United States, we see a consistent trend of declining immigration. In addition, there was no effort on the part of the State of Israel or the Jewish Agency to promote aliyah from these countries. Since there is already mass immigration from the former CIS countries as a result of the war, it is more appropriate to direct the state effort in the directions that require it."
Ukrainian immigrants landing in Israel (archive), photo: Noga Malesa//Ministry of Immigrant Absorption
The official stressed that the move will not harm the existing immigration from the former Soviet Union, and that "those who come from there will continue to enjoy everything that immigrants from these countries have received to date."
Although the budgets in question are currently relatively limited, this is a first step Sofer plans for a revolution in immigration policy. Since his appointment as Minister of Immigrant Absorption, Sofer has visited France twice and the United States once. The purpose of the visits was to learn about the state of the Jewish communities there and the steps required to encourage aliyah. In addition, his office is formulating a long list of programs to encourage aliyah from many Western countries.
"The ministry did not deal with immigration from the West in previous years. They just didn't invest in it, even though the potential exists, and everyone knows that the reasons for it were political. The change we bring is professional, and from the very first steps we have taken in this direction we see the positive response. The current step is only the first," said the senior official at the immigration ministry.
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