French Olim 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Immigrant Absorption Ministry will expand its work to encourage aliya, and is preparing to absorb 30 percent more olim in 2008 than in 2007, ministry director-general Erez Halfon told the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee on Monday.
The ministry plans to absorb around 20,000 new immigrants in 2008, up from the just over 15,000 who are expected to come in 2007. According to ministry figures, between January and mid-October, 14,843 olim came from more than 100 countries, with the former Soviet Union (4,671), Ethiopia (2,661), North America (2,412) and France (2,301) accounting for the lion's share.
"The ministry's budget will be some NIS 1.4 billion [n 2008]," Halfon told the MKs. Besides the ministry's many absorption projects, these funds will go toward encouraging aliya overseas and offering financial incentives to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis living abroad, many of them highly-skilled professionals, to return home.
The ministry hopes to entice expat Israelis to return in 2008 with an NIS 50m. budget that will include tax and customs exemptions, health insurance subsidies, help in job placement, grants for academics, scientists and doctors, cheap loans, and bureaucratic and financial help for those seeking to open small businesses.
An overseas ad campaign will notify Israelis of these incentives.
The ministry will also seek to simplify the conversion process and dramatically increase the number of conversions among non-Jewish olim living in Israel, according to Halfon. The ministry is reportedly expecting a 30% rise in the number of conversions among olim.
However, the ministry has only limited authority to change conversion policy.
Other goals of the ministry include increasing Hebrew language studies among olim to encourage their integration into society, expanding activities for at-risk youth, and increasing work placement help and job training programs.