Over two hundred new olim arrive on flight of IFCJ aliya initiative.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
One-third of Katzrin’s proud residents are olim from the Former Soviet Union – veteran olim and new olim, just like me. It is impossible to imagine the Katzrin Local Council, which I head, and Katzrin’s 7,000 residents without its immigrant population. The olim of Katzrin are the central power in the city’s development, a significant component of its strength and an important key to its future. And what is right for Katzrin is, of course, right for the State of Israel as a whole.
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I made aliya from Lithuania as a young boy, part of the large wave of immigration to Israel in the early 1990s. Believe me – being a “new oleh” is not an experience that you easily forget. Immigrating to a new country is one of the biggest decisions a person can make. Someone who has not experienced first-hand the sensations of separation and strangeness will never understand what it’s like to move to a new country, a new language.
These challenges, without a doubt, formed who I am today and helped shape the public official I became, one who has served in senior positions in immigration and absorption policy in Israel.
In Katzrin, it is not the “local council” that absorbs the new olim – it is the community that absorbs them. When I came to the city as a new oleh, Giti Shani, my upstairs neighbor, knocked on my door, said “Welcome, my dear,” and left a pot of couscous. A few weeks ago, 60 local families greeted our new olim over a dinner which they themselves cooked and paid for. Katzrin’s olim are absorbed into our city as partners and experience, alongside our older residents, the advantages and disadvantages of living in Israel’s periphery.
Tonight, I will pick up the phone and call a family of new immigrants that arrived in Israel this morning on the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews’ (known here as the “Keren LeYedidut”) third “Fellowship Flight” from Ukraine.
They join four other families who recently came to northern Israel on a prior aliya flight organized by IFCJ’s head, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
I will tell them a bit about myself, my background, and the wonderful place they have come to live in. With a full heart, I will tell them that the people in charge of aliya and absorption in our local council are incredibly skilled and experienced professionals. I will promise them that tomorrow when they open their eyes and see how beautiful it is here, they will feel even better about their brave decision to move to Israel.
In my eyes, the aliya of Jews to their historic homeland continues to be a national mission of the greatest importance. This simple and basic idea – to bring as many Jews as possible to their homeland – remains as relevant as ever, and it is our responsibility to do right by them and do right by the State of Israel and the people who live there.
In order to continue to realize this complex dream, we need the help of organizations like the Keren LeYedidut, whose activities around the world and in Israel have filled an important chapter in the history of aliya and absorption in Israel for the past four decades. People who continue with all their might to believe in this beautiful dream and are willing to deal with its complexities are treasured friends.The author is mayor of Katzrin.