An initiative proposed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will soon have Israel reconnecting with Israelis who live abroad, Yedioth Ahronoth reported recently.
The government is concerned about the steadily growing numbers of Israelis choosing to live abroad, and has decided to make a special effort to convince them to return.
Keeping with the spirit of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, the Prime Minister's Office had devised a benefits package offering those who choose to return this year their choice of financial benefits and exempts, all to entice them to come back home.
"Israel's past governments have not done enough to keep in touch with Israelis who emigrated overseas," said Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel. "Some of them haven't heard from the State even once in last 10 to 15 years."
Yehezkel, at Olmert's request, has compiled a brief exploring Israel's relations with its citizens overseas, finding out in the process that the government is lacking an orderly system of doing so.
Mapping out Israelis overseas
Following the brief, Olmert issued a directive to map all Israelis living abroad, so that the government can contact each and every one of them personally, and attempt to convince them to return to Israel.
Sources in the PMO told Yedioth Ahronoth that in the absence of a database, the relations between the State and Israeli immigrant was a one-sided one, with the formers calling on the Immigrant Absorption Ministry if they wanted to come back.
"Having Israeli immigrants return to Israel is my primary goal," said Olmert. "Each and every one of them is still connected to Israel with every fiber of their being and Israel must define their return as a national mission," added the PM.
There's no place like home (Illustration Photo: Amnon Meranda)
The PMO's working assumption is that Israeli immigrants still see Israel as their home and if the State shows it cares about their return – a large number of them will do so.
Olmert and Ze'ev Bielski, chairman of The Jewish Agency, also agreed that the various Agency missions around the world will start pushing the notion in their respective communities.
The Prime Minister's Office is also looking into creating a website which would cater to Israelis abroad and Diaspora Jews in general.
The PMO hopes the site will become a "Jewish Facebook" of sorts, and says it would include features such as a social network relative search engine and an online dating service, along with historical background on Israel, Jews, Judaism, etc.
Another notion mulled by the PMO is creating Jewish culture centers in various cities around the world as means for the State to stay in touch with the Israeli communities abroad.