Analysis: The chaos of aliya

Analysis The chaos of a

November 2, 2009 23:45
2 minute read.

The recent arrests of two Jewish immigrants alleged to be among the most brutal criminals in Israeli history has left many wringing their hands over the state of Israel's screening process for olim. Whose "fault" is it that these two men, alleged political terrorist Ya'acov Teitel and alleged mass-murderer Dimitry (Demian) Kirilik, could make aliya in the first place? There are many problems with this question. First, is it even possible to prevent the entrance of a handful of murderers among the three million immigrants Israel has absorbed in 60 years? Second, and more importantly, before Israel decides how to screen olim, it must first decide who should screen olim. The current system - this should come as no surprise to those familiar with Israeli bureaucracy - is messy and unclear. Different organizations, some private, some governmental, handle different functions of the aliya process, while one organization performing one function in one country can have an entirely different function in another. For example, in the United States, Teitel's country of origin, it is the Jewish Agency that checks olim and Nefesh B'Nefesh that "recruits" - reaches out to them - and physically relocates them. In the former Soviet sphere, it is the Jewish Agency that recruits and relocates and Nativ, an Israeli agency operating out of the Prime Minister's Office, that checks and approves the olim. In the case of North American olim, the Interior Ministry accepts the Jewish Agency's judgment regarding suspicious applicants, while in the post-Soviet regions, it's not at all clear who is ultimately responsible for these determinations. Thus, Israeli immigration has no single administrative bottleneck that allows for easy control. Even worse, there is no consistency in terms of the demands made on immigrants from any single country. For example, an American who wishes to make aliya from the US only has to attest that he or she has no criminal record, without showing any kind of proof. But if that same American is already in Israel on a work or study visa, then making aliya through the Interior Ministry - a so-called "change of status" aliya - requires that they produce a police document from their country of origin proving they have no criminal record. If they make a "change of status" aliya through the Israeli offices of Nefesh B'Nefesh, meanwhile, they do not have to show such proof. Confused? It's all because the approval process in each case takes a different path to reach the same Interior Ministry computer. The myriad organizations and regulations mean that no single Israeli institution currently wields any real control over how olim are approved.

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