Bitan says Foreign Ministry slowing aliyah with inefficient bureaucracy

The numbers of people in North America and around the world who have opened aliyah files has seen a massive spike in 2020.

38 Olim land in Israel as part of a Nefesh B’Nefesh Group Aliyah Flight (photo credit: NETANEL COHEN)
38 Olim land in Israel as part of a Nefesh B’Nefesh Group Aliyah Flight
(photo credit: NETANEL COHEN)
Knesset Aliyah, Absorption, and Diaspora Committee chairman MK David Bitan accused the Foreign Ministry on Monday of stymieing aliyah due to a failure to increase the number of staff dealing with the dramatic rise in demand.
The numbers of people in North America and around the world who have opened aliyah files increased drastically in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but lockdowns and coronavirus restrictions in many countries have made processing these applications more difficult.
The committee heard on Monday that Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that arranges aliyah from North America, has seen a 152% rise in the number of people opening aliyah files between April and July this year, compared to the same period in 2019.
And in June this year, 3,359 aliyah files were opened with the Jewish Agency which deals with aliyah in the rest of the world, an increase of a whopping 592%.
Bitan said however that potential immigration was being delayed due to bureaucratic problems processing applications, and said that the Foreign Ministry was causing a bottleneck by not increasing the number of staff at its consulates to deal with the bureaucracy, despite authorization from the Finance Ministry for funds to pay for extra staff.
“They are the bottleneck preventing the aliyah of 40,000 people a year,” claimed Bitan.
The committee chair called on the Foreign Ministry to reduce the waiting time for processing aliyah requests by 80%, and demanded that immigrants ready to arrive immediately but without final authorization should be allowed to come on tourist visas while their documentation is authenticate and processed.
He also called on the Foreign Ministry, together with the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry and the Immigration Authority of the Interior Ministry to formulate a plan for a more rapid aliyah process which would enable the entire procedure to be completed within 31 days.
Zev Gershinsky of Nefesh B’Nefesh said that the current moment was a historic opportunity for mass aliyah from North America never before seen.
“Historic moments demand historic decisions, and therefore our partners in government ministries need to think outside the box and show flexible thinking to bring about a quality, mass aliyah,” said Gershinsky.
Director of the Population Registry of the Interior Ministry Yoel Lipovitsky said however that a reducation in bureaucracy had been made, for example allowing potential immigrants to do their interviews with the Jewish Agency by video conference.
He insisted that background checks for past criminal activity were crucial, saying that otherwise pedophiles and other criminals could be granted Israeli citizenship.
Sources in the Foreign Ministry insisted to The Jerusalem Post however that the ministry was not responsible for any delays in the aliyah process, saying that the immigration visas take between just one and three days after the approval of the aliyah request by the Jewish Agency.
The sources added that the Foreign Ministry has proposed solutions for shortening the time it takes for US authorities to complete their bureaucratic processes, in order to expedite the aliyah process.
“We are saddened that the chairman of the committee received erroneous information about the work of the consulates and did not allow Foreign Ministry representatives to present their position and the dedicated work of Israeli representatives abroad,” said the sources.