By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
A study commissioned by the organization Nefesh B'Nefesh shows that encouraging aliya from North America is not just Zionist - it's good economics.
According to the study, released Monday by the organization and conducted by Deloitte Brightman Almagor Zohar, the Israeli branch of the Deloitte Touche network, American, Canadian and British olim who came with Nefesh B'Nefesh have represented a net economic gain of some NIS 1 billion between 2002 and 2008, when factoring in the combined value of tax revenues, education, tourism and personal assets.
The study combined official Israeli economic metrics published by the Central Bureau of Statistics and other bodies with data gleaned from Nefesh B'Nefesh aliya applications.
It found that Nefesh olim were a good investment for the government. Those who came with the aliya organization between 2002 and 2008 have generated a net income for Israeli government coffers of some NIS 461 million during that period, a figure which was derived by subtracting the NIS 528m. in government spending on the new citizens - elementary and high school educations, health care, the absorption basket and Hebrew lessons, as well as tuition and rent subsidies - from some NIS 989m. in tax revenues gleaned from their economic activities.
But Nefesh olim don't just generate wealth. They also bring it with them. According to data from the financial aid applications of olim - where the incentive is to underreport net worth - Nefesh olim have brought an average of more than $180,000 in "immediately available financial assets" per household.
Besides money, the olim bring another kind of economic asset: Youth. This is a young aliya. Fully 46 percent of Nefesh olim who came between 2002 and 2008 were under the age of 18, while the vast majority of the adults were working-age. According to the aliya applications, one-third (32%) of the adults were under 25, two-thirds (63%) were under 35, and 94% were under 65.
Olim also contributed indirectly to the economy through a relatively high level of education. With 74.7% of adult olim who came with Nefesh reporting that they had at least a Bachelor's degree (over one-fifth had Master's degrees and one in twenty had a doctorate), the study estimates that this aliya has brought with it educations valued at some NIS 383m.
Yet the olim's economic contribution went beyond their productivity, assets and educations. The study combined Central Bureau of Statistics figures for tourist spending in 2007 with a survey of the olim which showed that 80% had received an annual average of two visitors from abroad for an average of two weeks each year. According to the 2007 tourist spending figures, which the study says have remained constant for the period being counted, an American tourist spends some NIS 4,800 per week. Counted up, the total tourist spending related to visiting olim may have reached some NIS 347 m.
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