Israel is looking to settle its periphery with returning emigrés and is promising financial incentives to citizens living abroad willing to move to the Negev and the Galilee.
NIS 8 million are budgeted for the joint venture of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and Development of the Negev and Galilee Ministry over the next two years.
Israel has shown increased interest in settling the country’s northern and southern reaches in recent years, with Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom terming it a “top national priority” in 2011.
Last September the government approved a NIS 110m.
housing plan aimed at inducing up to a quarter of a million of Israelis to make the move in the coming years.
A program aimed at encouraging French aliya, which was announced by the Absorption Ministry this week, also contained a periphery settlement component.
Nefesh B’Nefesh, a private organization that runs North American aliya in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, currently provides financial incentives for erstwhile pioneers as part of its Go North and Go South programs.
Returning Israelis settling in designated regions will be entitled to “significant” absorption benefits above and beyond the base package, including rent and other grants that could add up to NIS 20,000 per family, the Absorption Ministry announced.
On Sunday Israel is to hold a conference in Times Square in New York promoting the initiative.
Other gatherings in Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and other locations are also scheduled to be held during the coming week.
A website appealing to Israeli emigres, urging them to “return home” is also slated to be launched in conjunction with the conferences.
The government said that it expects to settle 400 families of immigrants and returning Israelis.
Shalom called the initiative a “Zionist act” that would ultimately help “the whole country.”
“I invite you to take the plunge and want to see you start a new life in our common home,” Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said in a plea to Israelis living abroad, saying that her ministry is “making the absorption and integration experience better.”
Some scholars estimate that as many as 137,000 Israelis live in the United States, although popular perception estimates a much higher number, according to an analysis by the Jewish Federations of North America.
In late 2013 the Netanyahu administration unveiled its new World Jewry Joint Initiative, a program aimed at combating rising assimilation and intermarriage rates among Diaspora Jews.
As part of that initiative, Israel “must target audiences like Israelis abroad,” a source familiar with the matter told The Jerusalem Post in February.
“They will be part of this initiative too because we see them as part of the Diaspora.”
Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.