Several ulpanim expected to shut down

Several ulpanim to close despite Education Ministry's promise that current year students will not be hurt.

ulpan ein hashofet 224.8 (photo credit: Courtesy)
ulpan ein hashofet 224.8
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ethan Henshell, who made aliya from Harrisburg, Pennslyvania, in September, has already been disappointed by the government. After only four months of intensive Hebrew language instruction at the ulpan at Kibbutz Ein Hashofet, he - along with 18 other new immigrants - were notified late last week that their program would not continue on through the summer as expected, due to Education Ministry budget cuts. "We are very angry and disappointed," said Henshell, adding that his class also includes potential immigrants. "It is almost like the government is rejecting those people who are interested in learning Hebrew and want to stay here." The announcement that Ein Hashofet's ulpan will close in March comes less than a month after Education Ministry Director-General Shlomit Amichai, speaking at an emergency session of the Knesset's Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, promised that cutbacks to the budget for ulpanim would not affect new immigrants, at least during the current academic year. "We are sorry to see that ulpanim are already being closed down," said a spokeswoman for the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, which has agreed to take over the responsibility for the adult ulpan system. She said that a meeting had already taken place between Amichai and Immigrant Absorption Ministry Director-General Erez Halfon to discuss the takeover, but that it would be some time before a suitable structure and new teaching staff were in place. Several ulpanim in such periphery towns as Dimona, Arad and Beersheba have also been informed of imminent closure, the spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post. The Education Ministry reiterated Amichai's commitment to not hurt new immigrants in their attempts to learn Hebrew. However, the office did not deny that it will be withdrawing its teachers from the Ein Hashofet ulpan and other programs in the coming months. "I am not denying that we are making budget cuts," said a ministry spokeswoman. In the meantime, the new immigrants expect to pay the price. "It does not seem logical," said Henshell. "I don't know how they expect us to function in society without providing us with the basic tools to survive." "It is important not only for teaching the new language but also because of the constant field trips and seminars about Israeli culture and history that we provide," said the ulpan's director, Eitan Ram, adding that the program on Kibbutz Ein Hashofet has been running since 1954. "This kibbutz loves having an ulpan here partly for Zionistic reasons and partly because we see great value in the new immigrants." Ram said that since the closure notification came last week, he had been holding intensive meetings with representatives of the Jewish Agency, which provides partial funding for the program, to see if it can be saved. MK Michael Nudelman (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset's Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, said he planned to question Amichai on her ministry's decision to close Ein Hashofet's ulpan, especially after she had personally assured him that the budget cuts would not affect Hebrew language study for new immigrants until next year.