New minister Ze'ev Boim vowed Sunday that his first task as head of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry would be to try to increase the budget allocated for helping new citizens, specifically those from Ethiopia.
He also told The Jerusalem Post that he was particularly interested in encouraging additional olim from English-speaking countries to come here and finding ways to support their transition to life in Israel.
"One of the major efforts that we should make in Israel is to increase the number of immigrants from the Western world and mainly the Jewish community from the United States and France, where the community faces very serious problems of anti-Semitism," he said. "I hope we will be able to improve all the infrastructure here about how to absorb Jews from Western countries. It's totally different from people that came from other countries."
He declined to offer any specific programs for helping this immigrant population, since it was his first day on the job and he said he had yet to immerse himself fully in the issues.
While he indicated he would be spending the next several weeks taking a "seminar" on absorption issues, he pointed out that his experience as mayor of Kiryat Gat familiarized him with immigrants, especially Ethiopians.
He called Ethiopians, of whom there are many in the northern Negev development town, a "special" population in need of extra attention and tailored programs.
Boim, 63, also spent time in the Diaspora as the principal of a Jewish school in Mexico.
Observers who work in absorption and encouraging immigration noted positively Boim's experience with olim.
"He's well-versed in the issues relating to immigration and absorption. It's not like he's a total outsider," said one source.