Olim can be Jerusalem’s great opportunity

Jerusalem is the most beautiful and fascinating city in the world. Israel’s capital is filled with history, diversity, dynamic culture and simple beauty.

Jerusalem is also one of the most challenging cities in Israel. Its great diversity also sometimes creates tensions between the city’s various group of people. The local economy, while performing better in recent years, is still not as it should be.

Each population in the Jerusalem mosaic has its own challenges. Olim, those Jews who have returned to Jerusalem from overseas and made it their home, have several challenges with respect to integration. While Jerusalem is still the favored destination of many Olim when making Aliyah, it is unfortunately not yet possible to claim that it is the place where they will have the easiest integration.

Since entering the city council a few months ago as a representative of the Hitorerut party, I have made a consistent effort to put the integration of Olim on the municipality’s agenda.

The reason for this effort is twofold. Most importantly, Olim are constituents of Jerusalem’s city council, and as such deserve to see the issues that affect them receive the proper level of attention.

However, there is an additional, broader reason that drives my efforts on behalf of Jerusalem’s Oleh community: I believe that the proper integration of Olim is not simply a challenge for Jerusalem, but also an opportunity that can help overcome many of Jerusalem’s other challenges.

Olim can bring more economic growth

There is a broad misconception that all Western Olim  bring a lot of money with them to the country when making Aliyah. While that is clearly erroneous, what is true is that Olim can in fact help Jerusalem’s economic growth.

Olim are equipped with skills that are sorely lacking among Jerusalem’s native population. Their native understanding of foreign languages such as English and French, allied with their appreciation and intimate familiarity of foreign mentalities positions them as fantastic employees for many Jerusalem businesses and offices.

An Oleh from the United States can be an asset in effectively promoting a Jerusalem-based company to international clients. An Olah from France will typically be much more successful opening a business in Jerusalem that aims to do business with Europe than a native-born Jerusalemite.

Large companies also benefit from the supply of international-minded manpower and decide to move their businesses to Jerusalem thanks to Olim. Jerusalem companies can only benefit by hiring Olim as marketers, social media managers, and content writers, graphic designers, international lawyers, sales professionals, translators, business development experts and more.

Olim help create infrastructures with an international feel, and for a city with such a large tourism industry, such infrastructures are of critical importance.

Olim add to Jerusalem’s diversity

Jerusalem’s beauty comes from its great diversity. Jerusalem is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, of different people and languages. The mix of distinct flavours makes Jerusalem a place unlike any other. Ultra-Orthodox, religious, traditional and secular Jews, Jews and Arabs, Western and Oriental cultures; they all are part of the Jerusalem landscape.

Olim, it is often noted, are central to Israel’s social fabric. Nowhere is this more true than in Jerusalem. They add their color to the beautiful painting that is Jerusalem. From French bakeries to American street food restaurants, Jerusalem’s culinary scene is a living testament to the contribution of Olim to the city. This reality is true in all other cultural areas as well.

Additionally, if Jerusalem is to be the capital of all of the Jewish people, then it also needs to represent all aspects of the Jewish people. Olim provide an invaluable connection between Diaspora Jewry and Israel.

The very presence of Olim makes Jerusalem a better place.

Olim can influence Jerusalem’s quality of life

If Olim decide to not only live in Jerusalem but also take an active role in the city, they can also help bring international standards to the city.

In many areas, this can greatly improve Jerusalem.

Imagine Olim at the forefront of the effort to hold Jerusalem’s public transportation to a higher standard, and ensuring that people do not wait hours for buses that simply do not show up.

Imagine Olim making a positive change to Israel’s much maligned customer service, working with the municipality to improve standards of efficiency and politeness, smoothing the bureaucratic processes we all dread dealing with.

Olim, more than anyone else in this country, know what Israel could look like. They know how Israel can be better, and are motivated to participate in the continued building and development of our beloved city. Together, we can take Jerusalem to even greater heights.

Jerusalem needs Olim

It cannot be understated: Olim are not only constituents, but also a strategic advantage for Jerusalem. Once the Jerusalem municipality understands that, it will start fighting to make Jerusalem as attractive as possible to Olim and ensure  their successful integration in Israel’s capital.

I have made it my mission to ensure this message is heard forcefully in the Jerusalem City Council.

About the Author
MK Dan Illouz (Likud) is a member of the Foreign Affairs committee and the chairman of the Knesset’s Abraham Accords Caucus.
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