For many decades, even prior to the establishment of our State, Aliyah has been a number one priority.
In the pre-war years we had large immigration of German Jews….the “yekkes”. I remember very well when I left kibbutz Metzuva to “tramp” into Nahariya, one could barely hear a word of Hebrew…nur Deutsch. At Café Penguin and Tutti Loewy the patrons sat drinking their kaffee mit schlagsahne and nibbling on their apfelstrudel. Nahariya had become a German-speaking village.
Many of these German immigrants had received higher education and were professionals. Many doctors, surgeons, lawyers. All unemployed in their respective fields.
They did not complain but took whatever work was available to them and they adjusted very well. It was always “Gruss Gott, Herr Doktor” and “Ist alles in ordnung, Herr Doktor?” It became Herr Doktor Land.
To the credit of these German Jews who made Aliyah, they made great contributions to the culture in their new land.
In recent years we have had large waves of immigrants arriving from the former Soviet Union. Most of them were skilled…artists, musicians, opera singers, ballet dancers. And they arrived in a new country bereft of real opera and no ballet. Hundreds of violinists arrived and only a few could find employment in our symphony orchestras.
There were doctors and dentists by the hundreds who spoke no Hebrew and who could not pass the Israeli licensing exams. They complained and they grumbled. But eventually, all found employment and have made brilliant contributions to our cultural and artistic life.
And now, the French have arrived and shortly after arrival, hundreds left and returned to France. They were highly insulted that Israel did not recognize their professional credentials and could not permit them to work in their specialties.
The fault lies in our poor system of integrating those who make Aliyah by preparing them in advance their Aliyah. Groups such as Nefesh b’Nefesh have an obligation to prepare prospective olim and to help them secure a position in advance of their Aliyah.
One French physician took the Israeli licensing examinations and two years later he was informed that he had successfully passed. Why did it take two years to inform him while he had a meagre job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant? Disillusioned, he packed up his bags, his wife and four children and booked a flight back to Marseille. His comment: “it is better to face some anti-Semitism in France than to deal with the Israeli bureaucracy”.
In the days when the Sochnut (Jewish Agency) was responsible for assisting new olim, things were worse.
Israeli bureaucrats are very stubborn and not receptive to change. “This is how we’ve been doing it for many years and this is how we will do it”. The bureaucrats lack common courtesy in dealing with individuals for whom they are responsible. They don’t smile. They look at piles of papers and rubber stamp them, ignoring the individual sitting on a chair at the desk in front of the officials
Waiting periods are too long. After making an appeal, some people have to wait two or three years to receive a reply.
I personally experienced this problem several years ago in dealing with the Misrad haPnim, Ministry of the Interior but with happier results. My request was denied but I didn’t let it stay there. I appealed to the Ombudsman in Jerusalem who reviewed my problem and assured me it would be corrected. She was very gracious and courteous and she understood that my request was completely justified.
Two weeks later the problem was no longer a problem. I wrote to the Ombudsman and told her I wish we had a thousand more like her in order to put the unfeeling bureaucrats out of a job.
The current situation of the French olim is an unhappy one. They are a cultured people with much to offer and to contribute to our country. Their complaint is justified. Israel wants olim to arrive, but once they are here they are on their own.
In order to resolve problems in future, Nefesh b’Nefesh must secure satisfactory positions for prospective olim in advance of their Aliyah. They deserve guarantees. And if they cannot get them, many will return to France and those still in France will prefer to remain there.