Gov't to fund 'independent' aliya groups

Budget for Nefesh B'Nefesh and Ami expected to reach some NIS 18 million annually.

September 23, 2007 00:44
2 minute read.
Gov't to fund 'independent' aliya groups

Nefesh Soldiers 224.88. (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)


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The aliya advocacy organizations Nefesh B'Nefesh and Ami are set to receive permanent, official recognition for the first time at Sunday's cabinet meeting. The proposal, which is supported by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri, is expected to pass easily. The financial support the two organizations have enjoyed on a trial basis since 2005 from the Prime Minister's Office will be made permanent and transferred to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry beginning in 2008. The funding is to reach some NIS 18 million annually. "This is a formal recognition of the success of these organizations," a ministry spokeswoman said on Saturday night. "Practically, the ministry will receive the budget to fund these groups, and will establish the criteria for support of future private organizations that support aliya." The proposal has reportedly made the Jewish Agency nervous, according to sources connected to the private organizations and the government. "It's a turf war," one source said, "and the agency justifiably felt it was under pressure and interpreted this as a blow. It wanted to take part in developing the criteria for funding. [Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev] Bielski met with Olmert, but it didn't work." The cabinet vote on the new policy has been delayed at least twice in the past month, and negotiations over the precise wording of the decision were reportedly still going on Saturday night. Apparently to reconcile disputes over the expected government decision, a cabinet advisory committee on aliya will be established headed by the minister of immigrant absorption, and which will include Bielski and the directors-general of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office. The panel will present the the cabinet with recommendations for increasing aliya. A Jewish Agency spokesman said the talk of concern within the agency came from parties that had their own interests in the matter. "Tomorrow's decision doesn't represent any real policy change," he said, adding, "I promise we will be happy with the decision." Nefesh B'Nefesh helps olim from North America and Britain, and Ami helps those from France, to maneuver smoothly through the aliya process and to acclimatize to Israel once they land. This is done through explanatory literature, personal assistance and social networks in Israel that absorb the immigrants once they arrive. According to government figures, most olim from the West now arrive with the aid of these organizations, with 4,700 expected to come through them in 2007. It is this success that led to the decision to lend them permanent support, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry said. Recently, a spat between the agency and Nefesh B'Nefesh saw the latter accusing the former of being unequipped to handle aliya from the West, while the agency said Nefesh B'Nefesh was selectively choosing olim, a luxury the more official and broadly-focused Jewish Agency did not have. The quarrel did not extent to the agency's relationship with Ami. •

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