With Israel still immersed in its second major war in Lebanon, and a continuing conflict with the Palestinians in both the south and the West Bank, one bright light still shines to give people here encouragement and inspiration. That ‘light’ is the continuing Aliyah of North Americans due to a very successful program known as Nefesh b’Nefesh. Originating a few years ago, following the Second Intifada Palestinian uprising and the September 11 2001 terror attacks in the USA, Nefesh b’Nefesh, a joint immigration venture of both American and Israeli organizations, landed it’s first group of North American Olim in Israel in July, 2002. Since then, more than 8,000 people, both families and individuals have come to try their luck at living in the Jewish State.
Even during the heat of the present conflict, two El Al jumbo jets full of Olim arrived a few days go, and are now beginning their Aliyah experience in various absorption centers and other locations around the countries â€“ including locations in the northern areas of Israel.
Nefesh b’Nefesh participants do receive some special benefits to help ease them into the mainstream of Israel society, including a basket or “sal” of grants and other special items, a one-way complimentary fight ticket, and certain tax reductions on purchases, rental and mortgage subsidies, etc. One of the prominent American supporters of the program, Tony Gelbart, who is president and CEO of CPM Worldwide, a Florida based investment company was quoted as saying: “We don’t care if you are Ashkenazi or Sepharadi, right or left winged, religious or non-religious. If you’re Jewish and want to try living in Israel, we’re going to help you!”
Special loans, which become grants if the participants stay for at least three years, run from $ 5,000 to 7,000 for singles to $15,000 â€“ 22,000 for families.
Once the new arrivals get settled into adjusting to living in Israel and learning Hebrew in various ulpanim (Hebrew language schools) they begin to look into finding work in order to support themselves, the assistance they receive does have a time limit attached. Those who do not have sufficient knowledge level of Hebrew to allow them to find Hebrew speaking work positions, have a number of English speaking opportunities in tel-sales and telemarketing, High tech soft ware and internet related jobs, as well as outsourced customer service positions, dealing with clientele in “the old country”. In addition to the American based companies, local ones who deal with these foreign entities, have numerous work positions available, allowing people to find work in their native ‘mother tongue’ level of English while still learning Hebrew.
Other kinds of assistance are also available through organizations such as Project Reconnect, an organization headed by representatives of the United Synagogue Conservative movement, with local involvement by such prominent Conservative and Masorati rabbis as Rabbi Paul Freedman, who now lives with his wife Nina in Jerusalem. Rabbi Freedman is one the most active members of this organization, whose purpose is to ‘reconnect’ former members of United Synagogue sponsored youth organizations such as USY, and bring them to Israel of either specially sponsored seminars, as well as permanent Aliyah. Working together with Ms. Devorah Greenberg, the organization’s Shaliah, or Aliyah messenger, their organization alone now has a file of more than 600 potential Olim, many of whom plan to make Aliyah via Nefesh b’Nefesh.