It is time for the Israeli government to take full financial responsibility for
long-term immigrant absorption programs, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky
said Monday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
that while the agency’s natural role should be connecting Israel and the
Diaspora, encouraging aliya and addressing the immediate needs of new
immigrants, it is up to the government to provide services once full citizenship
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“We are holding negotiations on all the levels to have the
government take over long-term absorption projects,” Sharansky said,
highlighting how the traditional relationship between the agency and the
government has shifted significantly over the years. “In 1948, the government’s
budget was small and the Jewish Agency’s was bigger, now Israel is a strong
country and world Jewry is less rich proportionally.” Currently, the agency
provides partial funding for several absorption centers and a number of key
programs for new immigrants, including the Student Authority, which provides
financial support for immigrant students, and Hebrew language study programs
known as “ulpanim,” in partnership with the government.
“It is time for
us to think about what is right for the agency to be supporting and what is
right for the government,” said Sharansky, explaining that the 80-yearold
organization relies mostly on funds raised abroad from international
“We can always go to world Jewry and ask for more money,” he
continued, adding that while it is relatively easy to raise money for causes
such as the immigration of Ethiopian Jews or for Jewish life on university
campuses worldwide, it is more challenging to raise funds for absorption
programs inside Israel.
“We are having discussions with the government on
very deep levels and we will not simply drop these programs until the government
is ready to take them over, but we hope it will happen in the next two or three
years,” he said.
Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver confirmed on
Monday that discussions had been held between her ministry and the Jewish Agency
regarding taking over long-term absorption programs.
Moreover, she said
she plans to meet with government officials in the coming weeks about securing
adequate funding for these programs.
“We have the ability to take over
these programs and it is right and natural for the Immigrant Absorption Ministry
to run them, but we cannot do it automatically – we need government approval and
financial support,” she told the Post.
According to Landver, there is an
agreement between the agency and the government concerning which bodies are
responsible for programs for lone soldiers, immigrant students and Hebrew
language instruction, as well as the support of certain groups of immigrants in
“The Jewish Agency took responsibility for these
programs and they cannot just get up and leave,” she said. “I want to help
Sharansky but at the moment we simply do not have the funds.” Landver estimated
that aiding the agency would require the addition of NIS 100 million in
government funding to the ministry’s annual budget.
“The budget for
supporting immigration is no less important than for security,” said Landver,
stating that she had already spoken with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and
planned to hold further meetings on the issue later this month.
response, a spokeswoman from the Finance Ministry said that a government
takeover of agency programs would be based on individual examinations of each
program and according to the priorities and budget of the Immigrant Absorption