One-hundred-forty Ukrainian immigrants arrived in Israel on Tuesday morning, on the last charter flight from the country organized this year by the International Fellowship for Christians and Jews.
Announcing the arrival of the new immigrants in a press release, the Fellowship touted its “leading role” in aliya.
The IFCJ said it has facilitated the aliya of 5,600 immigrants this year from 27 different countries, amounting to a third of all immigrants to Israel from non-English- speaking countries.
The press release also celebrated that the group “reached a new milestone by bringing the 10,000th immigrant to Israel since the organization began singlehandedly operating its own global aliya (immigration) program in late 2014.”
“Thanks to our millions of Christian friends in the US and in countries from Brazil to South Korea, we are playing an increasingly active role in bringing new immigrants to their Jewish homeland,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFCJ’s founder and president. “We look forward to bringing even more Jews home to Israel in 2018 and continuing to help build the Jewish state.”
The press release was met with disdain from a spokesman of the Jewish Agency, which as the central aliya body in Israel, has been critical of the group’s relatively new operations in the field.
“Let us be clear: no Jew, from virtually any place in the world, can make aliya without going through the Jewish Agency,” Avi Mayer said.
“Claims to the contrary are fake news. That other organizations attempt to take credit for Jewish Agency employees’ tireless work is unfortunate but not new,” adding that he would take the figures published by the Fellowship with a “heavy dose of salt.”
“Aliya isn’t about the plane you board to get to Israel. If it were, perhaps airlines should start branding themselves as ‘Aliya organizations,’ too. It’s about the hard work of getting you there – familiarizing you with the idea of aliya through various experiential programs, dealing with the eligibility process, giving you all the information you need, presenting you with your absorption options, setting up your life in Israel, and accompanying you throughout the journey. And that is done by the Jewish Agency,” Mayer said.
But Jeff Kaye, executive vice president and director-general of the Fellowship, told The Jerusalem Post that on the ground, tensions between the two organizations were a thing of the past.
“For the first couple of years that we were doing our own aliya operations there certainly was tension between the Jewish Agency and IFCJ. But I think in the last year it’s very clear to them and also to the government that we weren’t a flash in the pan – we are here to stay and we’ve been doing a really good job... I also think in the past year there has been almost no tension,” he said, suggesting that the Jewish Agency spokesman was not aware of the “very good” cooperation they have in the field.
Kaye also noted that the Fellowship provides pre-aliya guidance and accompanies olim for six months after they arrive in Israel.
It provides pre-aliya seminars in immigrants’ native countries, as well as financial aid, counseling and other support for olim to help them absorb into Israeli life, including grants of $800 per adult and $400 per child.
In countries outside of the FSU where the government authorizes aliya, the Jewish Agency provides the aliya visas on behalf of the Interior Ministry, Kaye acknowledges: “So we need to cooperate with them and we want to work with them – and we do.”
“The tension is very 2016,” Kaye asserted.
A total of some 28,600 immigrants arrived in Israel from around the world so far in 2017, according to data from the Aliya Ministry.
This includes some 3,600 brought by Nefesh B’Nefesh from North America and 546 from Britain.
The Ministry also registered 5,622 returning citizens. The Fellowship said it brought about one third of the remaining olim.
Since starting its own global aliya program in late 2014, the Fellowship says it has brought nearly 12,000 immigrants to Israel from Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, the Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Guatemala, Latvia, Lithuania, Melilla (an autonomous Spanish city on the north coast of Africa), Mexico, Moldova, Panama, Paraguay, Russia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and other countries which cannot be named due to security concerns.