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Posts Tagged ‘immigrants’

JAFI: No More Hebrew Ulpanim for Olim

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Israel Today reported Monday that the Jewish Agency is pulls funding for ulpanim – intensive Hebrew-language classes for immigrants – including classrooms and school supplies, potentially leaving thousands of new immigrants with nowhere to learn Hebrew upon arriving in Israel.

As of March 15, thousands of new immigrants to Israel will have to find new ways to learn Hebrew, as a sudden pullout of funds by the Jewish Agency will force the closure of dozens of ulpanim, schools for the intensive study of Hebrew.

The news was broken by an alarmed letter attained by Israel Hayom that was sent by Absorption Ministry Director Dimitri Apartsev to the heads of the Education Ministry, the Jewish Agency and the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as to the cabinet secretary. “As a result of the Jewish Agency’s unilateral announcement to cease funding the ulpanim for new immigrants, I must warn that starting March 15 ulpan activity will be halted,” Apartsev wrote. He claims that the Absorption Ministry had tried to discuss matters with the Jewish Agency, but that planned meetings had been delayed three times by the agency, and a new date had not been scheduled.

Recruits Must Renounce Dual Citizenship to Join Elite IDF Troops

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

It’s difficult to assess whether this entire issue might not be purely hypothetical, but as it turns out from a Yoav Zitun story in Ynet this week, The IDF now demands that new candidates for service in Israel’s submarine force waive their foreign citizenship in order to join.

We have no way of knowing just how many young men and women with hard-to-give-up American, British, or French citizenship (to name a few) are standing in line at the IDF recruitment offices, eager to spend their service near the bottom of the sea. But if they do, they will have to think long and hard about the price they’ll have to pay.

Apparently, Israel’s underwater fleet joined a few other elite combat units requiring that young warrior wannabes give up their former citizenship to join them. One could surmise from this demand that as long as a young recruit continues to carry his other passport in his shirt pocket, he can’t be trusted with the country’s highest levels of security clearance.

The criteria for receiving an IDF security clearance are decided by the units themselves, by the Shin Bet (Internal Security) and by the National Security Council, based on the level of exposure to classified materials during one’s service.

And so, submarine service recruits who are olim or the children of olim receive a notification stating that in order to qualify for the year-long training, as part of their security screening, they must renounce their foreign citizenship.

But here’s a catch: if a recruit went ahead and gave up his other citizenship, and then was dropped from the training course, he can never get his original citizenship back. Now, that’s a heartfelt show of patriotism!

The IDF Spokesman’s Office confirmed that “for information security purposes, soldiers serving in certain IDF units are required to meet strict criteria.”

According to Zitun, the recent move raised strong opposition among fleet reserve officers, who claim that the new decree will limit the number of volunteers clamoring to join the unit.

One former officer did not think the issue was hypothetical at all. “This is  absurd. Many excellent recruits hold a dual citizenship but wish to serve in an elite unit such as the submarine fleet,” he told Zitun. “In a country that fights for every recruit, especially for elite units, this demand should not be made. Soldiers serve for only a few years, and must not pay by losing their foreign citizenship that can be used later in life.”

The Jewish Press sent an inquiry to the IDF Spokesman’s office, echoing the same concern, and received this response: “The IDF has numerous criteria it uses in order to efficiently place soldiers in optimal positions. Since its establishment, the IDF has done everything in its power to function as a melting pot, allowing the integration of immigrants from all walks of life. The number of drafted immigrants has climbed annually to thousands in 2010 alone.”

Not highly specific, but we catch their drift. It’s not easy taking in young folks from all over the globe and turning them into soldiers. You want to be an immigrant and a hero? It’ll cost you…

71 Olim From Ethiopia Land in Israel

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

71 Ethiopians made Aliyah on Thursday, accompanied by leaders from the Jewish Federations of North America.

Upon their arrival, the new immigrants were taken to an absorption center in Kiryat Gat where they will live while integrating into Israel.

Decades After Immigrating, Ethiopians Decry Continuing Discrimination

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Thousands marched through Jerusalem on Wednesday to protest discrimination against Ethiopian immigrants, concluding a week of protests sparked by revelations that residents of Kiryat Malachi were refusing to sell or rent apartments to Ethiopian citizens.

Joined by white Israelis and representatives of several rights organizations, the crowds of mostly younger Ethiopian immigrants and children of immigrants marched to the gate of the Knesset, where so many go to air their grievances. Carrying signs calling for an end to discrimination, they decried the social and economic hardships that continue to plague the Ethiopian community, even two decades after their stunning rescue and relocation to Israel. Large sections of the 120,000-strong Ethiopian community lag behind the national average in education and employment, and domestic abuse cases – including dozens of incidents of husbands murdering their wives – have plagued the community.

Successive governments have devoted large sums to housing benefits and a range of other social welfare benefits for Ethiopian immigrants, but advocates say even more is needed for a community that has experienced such a deep culture shock in moving from rural Africa to modern Israel.

Many openly suggest that both the public and private sectors would do more to help the immigrants if they were white, claiming prejudices against the Ethiopians’ skin color and widespread suspicion of the authenticity of the their Jewishness prevent progress.

Thousands of the immigrants were made to undergo a conversion process, to remove such doubts. But religious and racial tensions remain, contributing to the community’s difficulties in integrating with the rest of Israeli society.

Israel Moves to Stop Flood of Illegal Immigrants

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

The Knesset on Tuesday passed a law allowing foreigners caught illegally entering the country to be held in detention facilities for up to three years, without trial. The law also sets penalties of up to 15 years in prison for Israelis who assist in such infiltrations.

The new regulations, which update a 1954 law passed in response to Palestinian terrorist raids, are meant to stop the flow across the Egyptian border into Israel of tens of thousands of Africans seeking work or asylum. Current regulations allow authorities a much shorter period of detention, in many cases forcing the government to release illegal immigrants.

Opponents of the law said it infringed on human rights, and called its provisions for holding immigrants without trial unconstitutional. The law’s sponsors said that those who provide humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants already in the country would not be subject to penalty.

Illegal immigration from Africa has become a major concern for Israel. The first wave began in 2005, when a few hundred people fleeing fighting in Sudan travelled through Egypt to seek protection in the country. Tens of thousands of Sudanese, Eritreans and other African nationals soon followed, seeking better living conditions in Israel.

New Olim Are Country’s Hanukah Present

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Just prior to the start of Hanukah, 76 new immigrants from North America added light and happiness to the country, landing at Ben Gurion International Airport.

Seventy-six new immigrants from North America infused Israel with the light of Zionism by celebrating the first night of Hanukkah as new Israeli citizens.

The new Israelis were provided support by Nefesh b’Nefesh.

My Welcome To Israel

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Bear with me, if you will, for a bit of nostalgia.
 
A few weeks ago – Jan. 19, to be precise – I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my becoming an Israeli.
 
I thought readers might enjoy the telling of that tale.
 
I flew out of New York in an ice storm on Jan. 18, 1981, and arrived at Ben Gurion Airport the following afternoon, local time. I had gone to the Jewish Agency offices in Cleveland two months earlier to get set up. I entered the office of the shaliach – the emissary for those making aliyah.
 
“I am moving to Israel in two months,” I announced.
 
“You can’t,” he responded. “There is just not enough time to get set up.”
 
“There is nothing to set up,” I answered.
 
“But we cannot get you into an absorption center in so little time.”
 
“I do not want to go to any absorption center.”
 
“But we cannot get you into a Hebrew language ulpan in so little time.”
 
“Not needed – I already speak Hebrew fluently.”
 
“But we cannot help you find a job in so little time.”
 
“I already have a job there. The salary is awful but who’s counting?”
 
“But we do not have time to help you find an apartment in which to live.”
 
“I will go rent my own apartment, just as I do here in Ohio, thank you very much.”
 
“Well, in that case, if everything is taken care of, what are you doing here?”
 
“I just need a form from you so I can buy a one-way El Al ticket,”
 
Thus ended my “absorption” preparation.
 
I arrived in Israel on Jan. 19, the only immigrant on my flight, during a month that saw a record low number of people immigrating to Israel. The Ministry of Absorption people at the airport sent someone to the gate to conduct me to where I could pick up an ID card. I was also offered tea, stale bread and margarine.
 
“All right,” I said, “I am ready to head for Haifa.”
 
“No, not yet,” I was informed. “We cannot send off a driver and a taxi to take you to Haifa until we have some additional immigrants to share the ride, so you have to wait for the next flight to come in.”
 
“I would rather pay for the taxi myself and get going,” I said.
 
“You cannot, it is against regulations.”
 
So we waited for two more flights to arrive, neither of which had any immigrants. Finally I announced I was suffering from jet lag and had to leave right away, regulations or no regulations.
 
At that point they called out the Ministry of Immigration driver, himself a relatively new immigrant from Soviet Georgia.
 
“Where to?” he asked.
 
“To Haifa,” I said.
 
“Haifa? Where is Haifa? How do we get there?” the driver asked me – the fellow who had just got off the plane.
 
“I will show you,” I said.
 
And so off we went to Haifa.
 
“Is that over there Haifa?” he asked.
 
“No, that is Tel Aviv,” I explained. As we got closer to Haifa, he pointed at the water and said, “Look, you can see the Sea of Galilee.”
 
“That is the Mediterranean,” I corrected him.
 
Once inside the city, we needed directions. I had to get to a certain crummy hotel, having reserved a $30-per-night room.
 
“How do we get there?” asked driver.
 
“Beats me,” I said. “Can you ask those people standing on the sidewalk where the hotel is?”
 
“I can’t,” said the driver. “My Hebrew is not good enough. But you speak Hebrew fine so you should go over and ask them.” (I would later hear horror stories of new immigrants being driven aimlessly around Israeli cities for three hours or more because their Ministry of Absorption driver spoke no Hebrew.)
 
Eventually we found the hotel, a dive that has since been converted into an office building for municipal welfare services. After I checked in, I asked if I could have something to eat. I got more tea, stale bread and margarine.
 
The TV was on in the dining room, showing the news on the one Israeli TV channel that operated back then. The joke in Israel at the time was that one was better off sitting in front of a washing machine than a television set because at least with a washer you have a choice of six programs.
 
 
I sat back and watched. The Begin government that very evening had announced the appointment of a new minister of finance, Yoram Aridor. And Aridor was being interviewed about his new policies. He planned to expand money printing, while freezing the exchange rate and flooding Israel with new cheap imported consumer goods to buy off a public that was sick of rising inflation.
 
After watching Aridor, I ran to the front desk.
 
“Call my taxi back,” I said. “I want him to take me back to the airport!”
 
“Sorry, he’s gone,” said the clerk.
 
I later found out the driver stopped for coffee on the way back to the airport, got lost, and was never heard from again.
 
As for me, thirty years later I’m still in Haifa. The rest is history.
 

Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/my-welcome-to-israel/2011/02/23/

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