Despite the recent wave of violent crimesinvolving suspects from the Russian-speaking immigrant community, theoverall crime rate among olim is no higher than that of the generalpopulation, Police Southern District Commander Yohanan Danino saidMonday.
Speakingat the annual Ashdod Conference on Aliya and Absorption, Danino toldthose gathered that out of the 160,000 new criminal cases opened by thepolice over the past year, 24,000 involved immigrants from the formerSoviet Union, Ethiopia and other areas.
This ratio, 15 percent, is not disproportionate to immigrants'proportion of the population, he said. Figures released in recentmonths by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry show that immigrantsaccount for some 14.5% of Israel's 7.5 million people.
However, Danino also said that the types of crimes immigrantshave committed over the past few years are much more brutal than in thepast. He was referring specifically to Andrey Lushchenko, a Ukrainianimmigrant suspected of murdering his friend and sexually assaulting hisfriend's mother for a 24-hour period after the murder; and the murderof the six-member Oshrenko family by Dimitry Olegovich Kirilik inOctober, which has been described as Israel's worst murder.
Jointly organized by the ministry, the AshdodMunicipality and Bar-Ilan University, the conference included speechesby Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister AvigdorLieberman, Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, Justice MinisterYaakov Neeman and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, as well asdiscussions and panels from an array of professionals working with newimmigrants.
At the conference, Netanyahu highlighted that the only wayforward for Israel was to encourage aliya and the successful absorptionof new immigrants. He also emphasized the need to improve the country'stransportation infrastructure so that peripheral communities, many ofwhich take in new immigrants, would be better connected to the rest ofthe country.
Netanyahuhailed the arrival of more than a million immigrants fromRussian-speaking countries, pointing out that they "saved Israeldemographically."
In response, Lieberman called on the government to prioritizethe conversion issue, saying that the status quo excludes thousands ofolim from the FSU from participating in certain facets of everyday lifehere.
Meanwhile, as the conference took place Monday, hundreds ofimmigrants from the local Ethiopian community gathered outside toprotest the government's failure to approve for aliya some 9,000 FalashMura still waiting in Ethiopia.
Braving the pouring rain, the protesters called on thegovernment to speed up the immigration process of the Falash Mura,whose Jewish ancestors were forcibly converted to Christianitycenturies ago.
While conference organizers at first refused to grant entry tothose representing the protesters, by mid-morning, Landver agreed tomeet with them.
"She told us that she felt confident that the government wouldagree to bring those waiting in Gondar to Israel," Getene Awaka, aveteran Ethiopian immigrant who lives in Ashdod, told The Jerusalem Post. "And she said that when the decision is made, her office is ready and prepared to absorb them."
This is the third year the conference has taken place in Ashdod,a city that is often called Israel's immigration capital. Absorbingmore than 80,000 olim in recent years, more than one-third of thecity's 225,000 residents come from the FSU, Ethiopia, France and othernations