Israeli immigrant advocacy group Yad L'Olim marks anniversary

Yad L'Olim, an organization that helps immigrants to Israel, marked its first anniversary on Thursday.

NOT SITTING quietly: Dov Lipman. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
NOT SITTING quietly: Dov Lipman.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The Yad L'Olim organization, which helps immigrants from English speaking countries and around the world, marked its first anniversary at the Knesset on Thursday.

Former MK Dov Lipman launched the organization after helping thousands of people deal with the challenges of entering the country when it was closed due to coronavirus regulations. He lobbied the government to change its policies, and when requests for help kept coming in, he realized he had to establish an organization with a staff.

A year later, the organization employs nearly 20 people, works in six different languages and has helped immigrants from 22 countries. A team of Ukrainian speakers employed by the organization has helped immigrants who fled the war-torn country with the challenges of being absorbed into Israel.

The organization did not invest in an office. The staff instead works remotely while Lipman himself works out of the empty room of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, which has not operated in 18 months, because of the opposition’s boycott of all Knesset committees, including the ones it was set to head.

Lipman led an effort to persuade Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy to bypass the boycott and enable the formation of a subcommittee of the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee to help immigrants. But the subcommittee chairman, Yomtob Kalfon (Yamina), left the Knesset more than a month ago and its new chairman Zvi Hauser (New Hope) will only be approved next Monday.

Former MK Dov Lipman and outgoing MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh together with around 30 activists demand greater consideration for immigrants at a protest outside the Knesset Tuesday afternoon. (credit: JEREMY SHARON)Former MK Dov Lipman and outgoing MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh together with around 30 activists demand greater consideration for immigrants at a protest outside the Knesset Tuesday afternoon. (credit: JEREMY SHARON)

Advocating for immigrants

Meanwhile, the organization has met with immigrants in cities around the country, built relationships with politicians from parties across the political spectrum and developed long-term legislative policy plans while helping tens of thousands of people individually – including lone soldiers and their families and immigrants with health problems, bureaucratic battles and tax issues.

“Yad L’Olim has established itself as a voice for olim of all backgrounds in the Knesset, with a record of accomplishments,” the former MK said. “It is something that olim have needed for a long time.”

"Yad L'Olim has established itself as a voice for olim of all backgrounds in the Knesset, with a record of accomplishments."

Dov Lipman, founder, Yad L'Olim

Lipman has addressed the Knesset Education Committee and Law and Constitution Committee about the problems faced by immigrants. When Education Ministry representatives heard him speak about how immigrants who came at the height of the pandemic did not learn Hebrew, they approached him to work together to fix the problem.

“I want to praise the incredible activities for immigrants [both] in Israel and before they come,” Education Committee head Sharren Haskel (New Hope) said in a testimonial for the organization.

“Thank you for updating the committee on the difficulties of immigrants. I am looking forward to continued fruitful cooperation to resolve the problems and hardships they face.”

As a former MK, Lipman has access and knows how the system works to be most effective.

“I don’t know of an organization that after one year of activity can show so many achievements,” Religious Zionist Party MK Simcha Rothman said.