Few weeks ago I read the official immigration figures of Israel for 2013. There were 19,200 migrants to Israel, an increase of 1% from the previous year. The number of immigrants from France increased by 63% to 3,120 while the number of UK Jews making Aliyah decreased by 27% to 510. Unsurprisingly the biggest number of Olim came from former soviet union countries, 7520 in total.
The Jewish Agency says that 60% of Olim are under the age of 35, while 37% of them are aged 18-34. What isn’t clear and what isn’t reported is how many of those made Aliyah, chose to leave and go back to their countries of origin or to another country.
For diaspora Jews, Aliyah is settling in the land of milk and honey, fulfilling the Zionist dream and being part of the only Jewish state in the world, the state of Israel. But should we look at Aliyah only through rose-tinted glasses? What is Israel doing to make sure Aliyah is succesful and Olim can feel they did the right thing and want to stay?
I would like to share two stories of two Olim whom I know, both of them made Aliyah from UK to Israel. The first one been in Israel for more than 10 years, earn more than the average but still told me about how life became a battle for survival due to the living costs. He is expecting his first child in few months and because prices in Israel are out of proportion, he had to buy a pushchair in the UK (which he’ll collect in his next business trip).
How come that the price of a push chair in Israel is significantly more expensive (and it’s not because of import duties) than in the UK, where salaries are higher than in Israel? Why does the same person need to buy basic things like toothpaste and toilet paper overseas because it’s cheaper? And this is an example of someone who earns more than the average, what about those who earn much less?
Like the 2nd friend of mine, a very educated person who used to work in a senior political role in Britain and decided to make Aliyah 3 years ago. Although trained as a lawyer, he can’t find a decent job and works for 4000 NIS per month as receptionist. This week he wrote me saying that he had enough and think he will have soon to return to UK because he can’t break even at the end of the month.
These are just two examples, one is more financially secured than the other but both find it difficult to cope with the living costs in Israel. How many more are like these two? How would other Jews be encouraged to come if they know about the reality? How can the Jewish Agency and Israel make Aliyah more attractive and give enough reasons for Olim to settle and not think of going somewhere else?
The answer lies within the country’s priorities and where it decides to allocate its budget. If you want to encourage more people to make Aliyah, you need to give them financial benefits, you need to support them in finding good jobs, you need to make Aliyah attractive (and not just because of the hot weather).
Israel built and established by immigrants and Israel needs immigration today as it enriches the society and economy and make Israel a stronger country. When will the decision makers stop bashing emigrants and ask why so many Israelis apply for a European passport? When will the decision makers start focusing on how to convince more to immigrate and make sure they stay?
These are not the only questions that needs to be answered. How come that only 3030 immigrants came from the US where the Jewish population is over 6 Million? What are the reasons for that and is the money used effectively by the Jewish Agency in the US, or maybe it needs more? Serious questions which should be food for thought for those making the decisions.