Maaleh Adumim 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A community-aliya program aimed at new immigrants from English-speaking countries has sparked controversy in recent weeks as the Jewish Agency has pulled back from promoting two of the towns involved because they are beyond the pre-1967 lines, The Jerusalem Post learned on Wednesday.
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The five year-old program is funded by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, and aims to settle English-speaking olim in Jerusalem, Haifa, Modi’in, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel.
Until last month, all five cities were listed on the Jewish Agency’s website and agency emissaries representing Israel in communities worldwide would offer potential immigrants information on the program.
But three weeks ago, two of the towns, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel – both of which are situated over the Green Line – were removed from the information on the website.
Sources told the Post
that in an internal meeting held last week between the Absorption Ministry and Jewish Agency officials, coordinators for the two towns were informed that their segment of the program would no longer be promoted.
A spokesman for the agency pointed out that the program is fully funded and operated by the government, and not by the aliya organization – which is responsible for bringing Jews to Israel, but not for where they live once they arrive.
“JAFI [the Jewish Agency for Israel] does not tell people where to live, but it will also not hide the options that are available to new immigrants,” said the spokesman, adding that the page on the website was in the process of being updated for 2011.
He denied that this was a new policy of the agency, adding that the quasi-government organization, headed by former deputy prime minister Natan Sharansky, does not fund programs over the Green Line – even though the information is available if potential immigrants request it.
However, Ma’aleh Adumim’s Deputy Mayor Boris Grossman criticized the agency for removing the town from its promotional material, saying “there was never a problem before. People love living in this city. It is a great place to live, and we have won many prizes.” Grossman holds the immigration portfolio in the town of 39,000 residents.
He said that over the past five years some 25 families a year have
immigrated to Ma’aleh Adumim from North America, as well as 17 families
from the former Soviet Union.
“I do not understand why Sharansky is doing this, we have been working
very well on this program and we plan to continue,” Grossman said.
This is not the first time that the Absorption Ministry’s
community-aliya program for English-speakers has faced problems. Last
year, budget cuts meant that immigrant families from North America – who
make up the bulk of English-speaking immigrants to Israel – were
removed from the program, leaving it open only to those arriving from
Britain, South Africa and Australia.
While most of those moving to Ma’aleh Adumim under the program are from
North America, the other city over the Green Line, Ariel, is more
popular with immigrants from Britain and South Africa, with some 10
families opting to move there each year.
A spokesman for the Absorption Ministry responded that it is “a partner
to the community-aliya program,” but that it does not take any part in
marketing the program abroad.
“That part belongs to the Jewish Agency and the relevant municipal authority,” he said.