October 20, 2009 / 2 Cheshvan 5770
Back To The Land!
The recent influx of new immigrants from 15 states in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) created an opportunity for many dignitaries to salute the new citizens in their new home.
One of the events that marked this occasion – a dinner at the Shalom Hotel in Jerusalem – drew guest speakers from the Jewish Agency and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), who sponsored the Aliyah flights. These speakers included Paula Edelstein, co-chair of the Aliyah & Klita Committee, and Hakan Haggblom, general manager of ICEJ.
Paula Edelstein welcomed the new immigrants with enthusiasm. “Israel needs immigrants and we want you to succeed in Israel; you bring with you skills and experiences that are vital for the country,” she said.
“It is important to recognize that Aliyah is not just a physical move, but a complete cultural change, and we are here to help you adapt. You are wanted in Israel and we will do whatever we can to help you succeed in the Klita (Absorption) process. The ‘Red Carpet’ package is a way of easing the initial stages, and we welcome you to your new life.”
"Aliyah on a Red Carpet" is part of an overall change in the Aliyah-Klita process. The process attempts to put the immigrants at the centre and to engage each immigrant individually in finding the best option for that person, both before and after Aliyah.
During her address, Edelstein briefly mentioned the tragic death of Assaf Ramon, whose F16 fighter jet had crashed that day. Ramon was the son of astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who died in the fatal Columbia space shuttle mission six years before.
“You arrived on a difficult day for Israel,” she said. “It was a rough, but real introduction into life in Israel and a demonstration of how the entire country can mobilize around a tragedy or an accomplishment.
“This is your country now, so embrace it.”
Christians Support Aliyah
Hakan Haggblom welcomed the FSU immigrants to Israel and explained the ICEJ’s part in the process.
“As a representative of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), I am happy and honoured to welcome you home,” he said. “IECJ is an organisation that wants to stand with Israel and the Jewish people. Since the Iron curtain fell, IECJ has helped over 100 000 Jews home.”
He continued by quoting Jeremiah in the Tanach: “Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that it shall no more be said: ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but ‘the Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them’. For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their father.” Jeremiah 16: 14-15
“The IECJ has its branches in over 60 countries where Christian friends want to support and help the Jews return to Israel,” said Haggblom. Recently, a major donor in the United States donated $100 000 to sponsor airfares of FSU immigrants, and thanks to this donation, we will bring about 340 immigrants into the country between August 5 and September 30, 2009.”
The organisation works closely with the Jewish Agency to achieve its goals and its branch in Russia runs various campaigns encouraging Jews to make Aliyah. To date, the IECJ has sponsored 75 flights bringing new immigrants to Israel.
New Immigrants Have Their Say:
Dream Comes True For Young Immigrant
Yulia Merson (24) left her parents in Perm, Ural, to find her place in Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel), a dream she has had since she was a child. She has visited Israel often in order to see her grandfather, who made Aliyah in 1981 and lives in Be’er Sheva.
“I’m very happy and excited to be here, but I’m not happy to have left my parents and my boyfriend (of three years) behind,” she said. “It was really hard to leave them not knowing when I’ll see them again.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing my grandfather in Be’er Sheva though, and then to see my uncle in Eilat, where I’ll be living.”
Although Merson completed her first degree in Geology (Oil and Gas) in Russia recently, she wonders why she chose such a strange major considering there’s no oil and gas industry in Israel.
“But my father has friends in Eilat who are jewellers and I’ll be working there with them until I can decide what to do next,” said Merson.
Both her parents are jewellers who met while studying together and decided to get married. They brought Merson to Israel almost every year from the age of nine to spend time getting to know her family in this country.
Although Merson did not take advantage of all the services provided by the Jewish Agency at the hotel – she decided to sort out the various services once she’s with her family – receiving her Teudat Zehut (ID card) at the Mount Scopus ceremony was very meaningful to her.
Merson was one of 234 new immigrantsto receive her ID card at the special ceremony at Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus Campus amphitheatre, which has a breathtaking view of Jerusalem.
Musicians Overwhelmed By Aliyah Process
Tatiana and Yugeni Galitsky are jazz musicians from Moscow. Their desire to be in Israel was overshadowed by their fear of not finding work when they arrived.
“We are art people, jazz musicians,” said Tatiana, “and we know how hard it is to find jobs in Israel in our profession. We were afraid to come for this reason, but we searched for different options that would help us come here and decided to find out about studying in Israel.”
They discovered the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Ramat Hasharon through the Jewish Agency and decided to apply.
“We wrote to the principal of the Rimon School and he wrote back to say we were welcome to join them,” said Yugeni. “We were lucky to get into the school to study music and we are very happy.”
Speaking in their broken English after the final event of the “Aliyah on a Red Carpet” process – the special ceremony at Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus Campus – the Galitskys mentioned how excited they were to be in Israel and to have gone through the “Aliyah on a Red Carpet” experience.
“We are so happy and pleased to be here,” she said. “It was a really precious day for us. The Jewish Agency helped us so much and made our trip so good. It was a big celebration for us; a big present. We hope that more and more people come from Russia to Israel because it is so good to be here. It is like coming home.”
The Galitskys left their entire family behind in Russia, knowing they probably wouldn’t ever come to Israel. Tatiana’s 12-year-old daughter, Lisa, obviously made Aliyah with them, but Yugeni’s 18-year-old daughter, Katya, remained behind to complete her studies.
“Katya wanted to continue studying in Russia, but we hope that she will join us after she has finished her degree,” he said. “We have many friends all over Israel though and they told us it would be great here, it will be ok, and they would help us to settle in.”
A Decade Of Decreasing Aliyah
Over the past 10 years, Aliyah from the former Soviet Union (FSU) has dropped dramatically compared to the decade before, one of the reasons the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption (MOIA) and the Jewish Agency have embarked on the new six-month programme to encourage a new spate of immigration.
The FSU Aliyah programme provides new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) coming to Israel between July 16 and December 31 2009 with an extra stipend, over and above the usual sal klita (absorption basket) given to other immigrants. The programme was launched to bring these Jews back to their roots in the land of their ancestors – before assimilation denies them the Right of Return under the law.
According to the Jewish Agency’s statistics, about 270 000 people made Aliyah from 1998 to 2008, compared to nearly 750 000 during the decade before. In fact, less than 40 000 arrived between 2004 and 2008.
This could be due to a number of reasons, not least because of the fact that Jews are now free to practise their Judaism openly and without fear since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Initially, the fall of the SU saw the highest influx of immigrants into Israel – during 1990 and 1991, approximately 335 000 (185 000 and 150 000 respectively) immigrated over the two-year period – but the numbers started to decrease around the new millennium.
Considering the fact that there are about 850 000 Jews still in the FSU, the reduction in the numbers over the past decade is disappointing for the Jewish Agency, whose mission is to “increase and advance Aliyah, optimizing and positioning life in Israel as a central choice in global Jewish life”.
However, this new program to encourage Aliyah will, hopefully, enable the Jewish Agency to achieve its goals. – Source: Statistics available on www.jewishagency.org
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, September 2009, there are 7.438 million people in Israel. About 5.6 million are Jews (75.5%), 1.5 million are Arabs (20%) and there are about 318 000 (4.2%) others.