Canadians learn how Israel absorbed millions of immigrants

Canadian delegation will participate in a dialogue on Immigration, Integration and Identity being held Thursday and Friday at the Ruppin Academic Center.

olim 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
olim 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Canadian immigration officials can learn a lot from Israel's success in absorbing and integrating more than three million immigrants over the past 60 years, according to visiting Canadian academics and experts on immigration, who are here this week to learn from local immigration experiences. Part of the International Metropolis Project - an immigration think tank initiated and sponsored by the Canadian government that includes more than 40 member nations - the delegation will participate in a Canadian-Israeli Dialogue on Immigration, Integration and Identity being held Thursday and Friday at the Ruppin Academic Center. "Israel has done an extremely good job of integration," Dr. Howard Duncan, Executive Head of the International Metropolis Project, told The Jerusalem Post this week. Duncan said that Canadian officials were very interested in learning from Israel's immigration programs and policies, despite the major differences in practices between the two nations. "Canada has an elaborate process of selecting immigrants with specific skills," explained Duncan. "And the only criteria Israel has for immigrants are that they fit in with the Law of Return." Duncan highlighted Israel's particular success at overcoming the challenges of integrating large numbers of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) and channeling their skills into the hi-tech industry during the early 1990s, as well as resettling more than 100,000 immigrants from Ethiopia. While the Metropolis project focuses mainly on immigration, Duncan said that the new challenge for most nations worldwide is "not how to attract new immigrants, but how to make them stay in the country." "The effects of globalization are enormous," he continued. "Today, we hear about people changing countries many times in their lives or about immigrants who return to their homeland. This is the new norm, what we call 'circular migration.'" Duncan said this norm was a challenge for both Canada and Israel, which in recent years has seen a larger number of its citizens leaving the country than arriving. Prof. Moshe Semyonov, from the department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University and Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Institute for the Study of Immigration at the Ruppin Academic Center, said that despite the high rate of citizens who leave, "Israel is committed to absorbing new immigrants." "I consider Israel a success story in terms of immigration and absorption," he told the Post. "Within one generation, new immigrants generally become part of the system." Semyonov, who is also a member of the Metropolis International Steering Committee, continued: "Israeli society is highly committed to accepting new immigrants and here the whole system is geared up to accept them." Asked what Israel could learn from Canada's experience, Duncan pointed out that the influx of new immigrants, especially from the Pacific and Asia regions, into the North American nation over the past two decades has created "extraordinary levels of ethnic and cultural diversity, with more than 200 languages being spoken in Toronto alone."