December 28, 2004
By Amiram Barkat and Zohar Blumenkrantz, Haaretz Correspondents
The number of immigrants from the U.S. to Israel is due to rise to a 20-year hight of 2,850 by the end of the year, even as the latest immigration figures for 2004 show that aliyah has dropped by 13 percent since last year.
Two hundred new immigrants from the U.S. are slated to arrive Wednesday on a special flight operated by national air carrier El Al. The Jewish Agency/Nefesh B'Nefesh immigration organization flight will be the fourth of its kind this year.
End-of-year immigration figures show that 21,744 immigrants are expected to arrive in Israel this year, compared to last year's 25,009 immigrants, Immigrant Absorption Minister Tzipi Livni told the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee on Monday. Immigration from Argentina alone has dropped by 70 percent.
The Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency both attribute the reduced immigration from Argentina to the economic recovery there in the past year.
Immigrant assistance organizations in Israel believe immigrants' difficulties upon arrival deter family members from following in their footsteps.
Alternative Laboral, a voluntary organization that helps Argentinean immigrants look for work, reports that requests for assistance have not decreased.
"Just in outlying areas like Be'er Sheva, Nahariya, the Krayot, Ashdod and Ashkelon, we estimate we have 1,200 people looking for jobs," director Lili Lipski reports. She said the problem for new immigrants adapting to Israel stem from the immigrants' socioeconomic profile.
"These are middle-class families with parents in their 40s and 50s who have no money and no language skills," she said.
Jewish Agency Latin America delegation chief Arieh Abir said, "Anyone who really wants to work in Israel will find a job."
The Jewish Agency has invested $10 million in the past three years in Argentinean Jewry, which Abir says has not gone down the drain. "We invested most of the money in rescuing the local education system, and made a substantial contribution to preventing assimilation. We are in a holding pattern, after which we hope to see immigration increase again."
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