nefesh olim cool 298.175.
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
NEW YORK – Hoping to encourage 5,000 new olim this year, Nefesh B’Nefesh is holding eight “mega” aliya events in cities across North America this week.
Starting Sunday in New York, the events will feature information sessions and one-on-one consultations for people preparing for life in Israel. The events also will promote the “Go North” program, which offers financial incentives to olim who move to Northern Israel.
But Nefesh B’Nefesh officials, who say they hope to reach 100,000 olim over the next 10 years, will also use the “mega” event as a major push toward that goal. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Danny Oberman, Nefesh B’Nefesh’s vice president for Israel operations, who noted there has been an uptick in aliya because of economic reasons in the past year.
Organizers expect some 2,000 people to attend events in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, Baltimore, Toronto, San Francisco, Chicago and Florida. “The vast majority of people attending will be making aliya, if not this year, in the next two or three years,” Oberman said.
The “mega” events will feature practical seminars and workshops about education, real estate and financial planning; ministers from the absorption, health and development ministries will be on hand to answer questions, including Prime Minister’s Office director-general Eyal Gabai and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, who will be promoting aliya to the Galilee or Negev.
“We are trying to give them more information about what’s going on there,” because the areas are largely underpopulated, Shalom told The Jerusalem Post
. “By coming to Israel, they are real Zionists. If they would like to be extra, Negev and Galilee are places to go.”
Shalom outlined a vision to bring hundreds of thousands of people to the Galilee and Negev by 2020. “The purpose is to try to convince those new olim that are asking to come to Israel to come to settle in the Galilee and the Negev, and not only in the Tel Aviv area or in Jerusalem,” he said.
Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Israeli government are also using the “mega” events to promote a joint initiative to encourage olim to settle in the Negev and Galilee. Under the initiative, olim who move to those communities are eligible for $1,000 from both Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Israeli government.
Oberman said the “mega” events fulfilled two goals: to answer questions about aliya and to create a positive social dynamic among potential olim. Oberman said the timing was critical, since many people who move to Israel during the summer months make their plans several months earlier.
In New York and Los Angeles, special seminars are geared toward medical professionals. For the first time, dentists who are making aliya can begin to take licensing exams in the US.
Since 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh says it has helped bring 24,000 olim from
North America and the United Kingdom. This past year, they said close
to 4,500 made aliya. This year, the goal is 5,000.
“There’s a very high level of recognition on the part of Israeli government that aliya is critical,” said Oberman.