MKs to push for more western aliya

Knesset initiative could make aliya more comfortable and streamlined for Westeners.

aliya 88 (photo credit: )
aliya 88
(photo credit: )
For Westerners contemplating aliya, moving to Israel may soon become a more comfortable and streamlined experience - if an initiative launched Tuesday in the Knesset bears fruit. At the official launch of the new Knesset Caucus for Western Aliya on Tuesday, caucus founders MKs Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Yoel Hasson (Kadima) called on organizations involved in aliya to submit working papers within a month on how to improve the absorption of Western olim. The caucus plans to create a national plan for increasing immigration from Western countries and submitting that plan to the government. It will serve as a hub that will link olim and aliya organizations such as the semi-official Jewish Agency or the independent Nefesh B'Nefesh and Ami with government bureaucrats, legislators and the government. Erdan and Hasson, representing both the coalition and the opposition, believe that the Knesset may be the best platform to advance the issue. "When MKs and the Knesset factions begin to put Western aliya on the agenda, it will force the government and the prime minister to deal with it," explains Erdan. "The Knesset is saying that we need to reexamine how we handle and understand the needs of olim from the West," said Hasson. The new caucus will be an address for both problems and solutions, according to Erdan. "All sorts of things get buried in the bureaucracy," he said, "and bureaucrats move faster if MKs are involved. If, for example, there's a problem with professional licensing of French optometrists - there is no such problem, it's just an example - then we can develop legislation to solve this. If we find that giving Western lawyers, who would take a 60 percent pay cut by moving to Israel, an exemption from income tax would bring them here, we could push for that. The idea is to develop a comprehensive program to attract olim from the West, and to start taking care of this through legislation and through government policy." According to Hasson, "If we're going to ask Westerners to move to Israel, we have to tell them how this will happen, how they will find a job and a home. We have to show them how we're making Israel more attractive to them." Are economic and bureaucratic incentives enough to increase Western aliya? "One of the biggest obstacles to aliya is that the Diaspora communities don't encourage it," Erdan believes. "They hear a mixed message from us - that we need their strength in the United States and elsewhere. It's true that we see American Jewish strength as important, but we see greater importance in the strength we gain when Jews come to Israel." Erdan believes the caucus "will have to create a hasbara plan for the leadership of those communities. Part of the problem is that we haven't been sending a clear message."