'Israelis want Law of Return unchanged'

Poll conducted ahead of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry's first-ever conference examining aliya.

October 9, 2007 21:55
2 minute read.
aliya 298 nefesh benefesh

aliya 224.88 nefesh . (photo credit: Nefesh B'Nefesh)


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The majority of Israelis have no desire to change the Law of Return, and more than half believe that Israel should do more to accept and integrate those not considered halachicly Jewish, according to a survey published this week by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. The study - conducted ahead of the ministry's first-ever conference examining immigrant absorption and aliya, which will be held next Tuesday and Wednesday in Ashdod - quizzed a representative sample of 516 veteran Jewish Israelis on their views vis-à-vis olim. Of those questioned, 81 percent said Israel should maintain the original wording of the Law of Return, which states that anyone with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent, as well as spouses of the aforementioned, are entitled to citizenship. Only 15% of respondents said it was time for Israel to create new criteria for citizenship based on characteristics such as professional training and family status. On the issue of who is a Jew, 55.8% said they believed Israel should more readily embrace those not considered Jewish according to halacha. The same number said that even if a new immigrant were not considered Jewish halachicly, he or she should still be allowed to marry a Jew in Israel; 36% said mixed marriages should not be allowed. "The success of immigration to Israel depends more on absorption into Israeli society than anything else," commented Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski, who in the past has called for Orthodox Judaism to be more accepting of some 275,000 Former Soviet Union immigrants who came to Israel under the Law of Return but who are not Jews according to halacha. Bielski also said that the study raised some tough questions about the public image of new immigrants, especially because the study showed that 63% of those questioned admitted prejudice exists against new olim. Despite that, only 22.5% said they would prefer a president born in Israel, and 74.5% claimed that their future son- or daughter-in-law's country of origin was not important. Furthermore, 56% believed the country needed to invest more resources to ensure more successful immigrant absorption, and the majority said they believed aliya was essential to keeping Israel strong and fixing the demographic imbalance with the local Arab population. "This study shows us that the Israeli public loves the idea of aliya but does not love the olim," said Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri. "It is the duty of all governments to continue investing its resources and making aliya a top priority." Next week's Aliya and Absorption Conference in Ashdod has been organized jointly by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency, the Ashdod municipality and Bar Ilan University. More than 200 professionals in the field of immigration are expected to participate, as is Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

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