Olim Beyahad members Bottom row left to right: Gerard Pomper, Sendy Ben-Hamo, Oliver Rafovitz, Jack Amoyal Top row left to right Vika Kanar, Boris Shindler, LiAmi Lawrence , Marina Soyfer.
(photo credit: EDWARD STERN)
A new party called Olim Beyahad (“Immigrants Together”) has officially entered the Tel Aviv municipal elections and seeks to serve as a voice for immigrants in Israel.
On Wednesday, the party’s name and list was approved by the Interior Ministry.
The 13 candidates on the list originate from a variety of countries, including Russia, France, the US, Germany, Peru and Israel – some are new immigrants, some are veteran immigrants and others are Israelis with immigrant parents.
The list is headed by French immigrant Olivier Rafowicz, a former colonel in the IDF and a former director with the Jewish Agency in France. No. 2 on the list is Olim Beyahad founder, Russian oleh and social and political activist Boris Shindler.
“We can bring to this city our multicultural experience,” Shindler told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “This city is branding itself in the world as pluralistic, tolerant and multicultural. We are the citizens who actually can bring this multicultural experience into everyday life. It’s our city and we should have the opportunity to express ourselves in it.”
The other candidates, in the order they appear on the list after Rafowicz and Shindler are: Vika Kanar, LiAmi Lawrence, Klaude Grundman, Tzvika Graiver, Etgar Cohen, Marina Soyfer, Sendy Ben-Hamo, Gerard Pomper, Jack Amoyal, Shahar Alon and Rodrigo Gon- zales. The list includes a lawyer, a doctor, artists, businessmen and businesswomen and social activists.
The party expects to publish its platform next week, Keep Olim in Israel Movement founder Lawrence told the Post on Thursday.
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“Olim are not in realistic slots in most of the parties and there is no party that represents just olim,” Lawrence said. “Tel Aviv is a multicultural city, and yet there is nothing from the city to keep olim here.”
Lawrence is an immigrant from the US who has dedicated himself to supporting other olim in Israel. He stresses the importance of uniting immigrants, noting that they often tend to stay in their own communities
“When you put everyone together you become a force,” he said. “The aliyah rate is growing, but they’re not keeping olim here and we want to change that by providing services on the street level.”
The party hopes to see more services provided to olim by the municipality which it believes are sorely lacking. Thousands of new immigrants make their new homes in Tel Aviv every year.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2017, 10% of all olim who arrived in Israel that year settled in Tel Aviv. But, Lawrence lamented, many find life here too hard and leave.
“Most olim have the same problems: acclimating, finding jobs, loneliness, language, cul- ture shock,” he said.
Lawrence mentioned support and assistance for young olim who need help adjusting to the Israeli education system, the provision of mental health services in a variety of languages, a hotline accessible to olim, and more information available in English and other languages.
The Keep Olim movement, for instance, publishes its content in seven different languages.
In addition to providing information and services in other languages, Lawrence said he believes the city should also do more to facilitate learning Hebrew.
“There should be more ulpa- nim [Hebrew language schools] and at a wider range of hours in the day. There are too many people at Ulpan Gordon,” he said.
Many immigrants turn to the Keep Olim movement in Israel during times of trouble, “so the next extension is to work on the local city level,” Lawrence said. “Olim built Israel and we are the future of Israel if we stay.”
Local elections will be held on October 30.
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