Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forrer on the campaign trail.
(photo credit: COURTESY YISRAEL BEYTENU)
The government needs to push for more Jews to immigrate to Israel from the US and other Western countries, by funding Jewish education and Hebrew lessons in their communities, Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forrer said on Tuesday.
Forrer, number two on Yisrael Beytenu’s list and a former director-general of the Immigration Absorption Ministry, described his plan, which comes in conjunction with the party’s focus on aliyah, in light of its voter base of Israelis from the former Soviet Union.
“The Israeli government has to set a goal for there to be 10 million Jews in Israel in the next 10-15 years - and to reach it, we need massive aliyah from Western countries… We need to bring the number of olim up from 30,000 a year to 60,000-70,000, or even 100,000,” Forrer told The Jerusalem Post
. “For once, we have to work to encourage aliyah from those countries, through Jewish education."
The key to his plan is to sponsor Jewish education abroad, with an emphasis on Hebrew lessons, because learning Hebrew would strengthen their connection to Israel.
In addition, Forrer said that those who learn Hebrew and Israel’s history would be less subject to manipulation by false information about Israel, and they would have an easier time acclimating once they immigrated to Israel.
Forrer estimated that his plan would cost about $10 million, which he said should be funded through the Immigration and Absorption Ministry – a portfolio Yisrael Beytenu always requests in coalition negotiations. Asked if that’s really enough to build new Jewish schools, Forrer said that part of it would go to establishing schools where there’s a need, and part would go to enriching existing schools and programs.
Much of the MK's focus is on the US, which has the largest Diaspora Jewish community, which he said “doesn’t see enough of Israel or the opportunity for aliyah.”
“If a million Jews make aliyah from the US, it won’t hurt American Jewry, but it’ll be dramatic for Israel,” he posited.
“I’m concerned about their children,” Forrer added. “There is such a big group of Jews who do not give their children a Jewish education. If they don’t come to Israel, the next generation is lost.”
The target communities are Israeli expats, of which Forrer said there are 700,000 to a million, and Jews from the former Soviet Union living in the US, of which he said there are another million.
“Israelis would be happy to give their children a Jewish education - but it’s expensive, and they end up in public schools,” he said. “Russian-speaking Jews in the US are not always so accepted in the broader Jewish community. These are people who love Israel, but don’t have the means to give their children a Jewish education or Hebrew lessons. We have to give them that.”
The MK said that the plan should be enacted as soon as possible, because Diaspora communities are “losing more and more of the Jewish people - and the next 20 years are critical.”
Forrer warned that: “If Israel doesn’t do this in the coming years, we will lose Diaspora Jewry. We need to bridge this gap.”
He accused other parties of not putting aliyah on their agendas.
“It shouldn’t be Yisrael Beytenu’s private business; it’s the business of all of Israel,” he said. “Israel was established to absorb Diaspora Jews, and we need to remind people of that, even in an election.”
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