We don’t need no olim

Who will aid olim seeking to built their lives in Jerusalem?

‘Olim’ arrive in Israel at the end of 2017. (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
‘Olim’ arrive in Israel at the end of 2017.
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
In the resolution of the recent struggle between Mayor Nir Barkat and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, one of the decisions made was to cut back some municipal services to reduce expenditures. Barkat announced that he would dismiss 2,150 employees and terminate certain services provided by the city.
Dismissal letters were sent out and then canceled, but the crisis is not over and the city still doesn’t have an approved budget.
After the 12-hour strike, most notable for the beginnings of piles of garbage, many thought that the problems were resolved, more or less. This is not the case.
Barkat’s need to cut expenses by reducing city services still exists.
One apparent casualty is the city’s aliya and absorption department, whose 50 employees have been notified that the department is targeted for closure and they will be dismissed soon.
City council member and head of the opposition, Fleur Hassan- Nahum (Yerushalmim), opposes the closure. Not only does the city have the largest number of olim in the country, but this department brings in (with matching funds from the Aliya and Integration Ministry) some of the largest revenues that the municipality receives. The dismissal letters were put on hold, but the 50 employees, including the head of the department, all have been notified that the intention to close the department is not withdrawn.
“The despair, frustration, anger and affront are painful,” says one of the employees whose job is imperiled, “but the worst thing is that we have no idea what will happen to us.”
About 3,000 olim each year choose Jerusalem as their new home.
Many come from Western countries and are highly motivated; at least a third of them have BAs and advanced degrees. The municipality’s absorption administration offers them a wide range of services, ranging from reaching out to potential olim in their countries of origin, organizing two-week exploration visits here, dealing with the manifold aspects of successful absorption, including school selection, a language ulpan and more.
Most of the olim coming to the city are Anglos (about 1,200 a year) or French (about 900) and most of the rest are educated young people from Russia and Ukraine, South America and Ethiopia. The city’s absorption department provides support for schoolchildren and job seekers. Hassan-Nahum says, “Compensating for residents who leave the city, these immigrants are good news for Jerusalem.
We should help them to integrate in the best way possible.”
For the moment, there is no official reaction from the ministry, but high-ranking officials there who did not wish to be identified at this stage are unhappy about the threatened closure.
“This might be part of the poker game ongoing between Barkat and Kahlon, waiting to see who will blink first, but it harms olim. As they seek to make their new homes in the capital, they are becoming hostages between players in shows of pride,” said one official.
A municipality spokesman stated, “Everything is frozen until we know how much money we get from the government.”