Immigrants: No one here keeps promises
Russian families who immigrated to Israel as part of joint Absorption Ministry-Jewish Agency project complain that grants promised them have been forgotten, promises broken. 'They wanted us to immigrate and become part of the successful statistics,' one of them tells Ynet. Authorities insist they are not eligible for grants
Who will uphold the promises made to immigrants in their home countries? The Jewish Agency and the Absorption Ministry know ho to boast of successful aliyah campaigns, but families who were convinced to immigrate to Israel from Russia complained in conversations with Ynet of offensive attitudes and indifference.
"In Russia, they kept on promising. The treatment was excellent. They wanted us to immigrate and become part of the successful statistics. Now no one cares," said Igor Rotman to Ynet. Rotman made aliyah to Israel with ten other young families of academics as part of a special program put together by the Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency.
According to him, "The Jewish Agency says that they are no longer responsible for us, and the Absorption Ministry claims that they are no responsible for what was promised by the Jewish Agency."
When the families expressed a desire to immigrate to Israel, Jewish Agency representatives suggested that they immigrate in the framework of a program called "First Home in the Homeland," and made a series of promises: Residence on a kibbutz in the north, ulpan studies, and school for their children – for five months. The program was said to include trips around the country to get them acquainted with Israel, translation of their professional degrees into Hebrew, and help with their career and academic orientation.
The families were supposed to immigrate to Israel in April. They were told that as part of a new program, "Community Aliyah," they could receive a grant. When they arrived in Israel in May, the State budget had not yet passed and they were told that there was no money to fund the grant or to subsidize the rest of the promises made to them.
When they asked about the first program that was offered to them, no one had answers. Absorption Ministry employees said they had no clue what was promised to them by the Jewish Agency and claimed that immigrants in Israel, in any case, are under the exclusive care of the Absorption Ministry.
The dispirited immigrants sent a letter to Absorption Minister Sofa Landver and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, but have yet to receive an answer.
How do you get to Absorption Ministry by bus?
"The conditions for participating in the 'Community Aliyah' program are being under the age of 45 and that one of the spouses hold an academic degree," said Rotman. "Among other things, we were promised a translation of our degrees into Israeli degrees so that we could start a professional career here or continue on in academia. They organized us a bus to Haifa so that we could do this at the Education Ministry, but an hour before the ride left the kibbutz, the trip was cancelled.
"Even if we wanted to do it on our own, the Education Ministry told us that they cannot receive us without an escort. Furthermore, we have yet to learn Hebrew to a high enough level."
According to Rotman, the sense is that "they brought us here and simply forgot about us. The systems are not coordinated (with one another) and do not work in cooperation."
Another immigrant said that he telephoned the Absorption Ministry and asked the clerk how to get to the ministry by bus. She said that she cannot answer because she herself gets to work by car. "How does she answer like that to an immigrant that has only been a few weeks in this country and has no idea how things work here?" asked Rotman.
"This perhaps is a small example, but exemplifies how things work and what kind of treatment immigrants receive after they have come to Israel. It is simply closed-mindedness and indifference."
The absorption minister's office said they have yet to receive any notice on the issue. The office reported, "The minister emphasizes that with her entry to the office of absorption minister, the ministry established a layout for the public's questions and comments that responds to immigrants' questions in their native language. Every issue is dealt with individually, professionally, and immediately.
"Therefore, the minister asks that all the immigrants direct their comments, demands, complaints, and questions to the Absorption Ministry, and that they do not attempt to communicate with her via the media."
"In regards to the content of the complaint," said the minister's office, "this apparently is in reference to a project for encouraging aliyah that is a pilot project implemented in joint cooperation between the Jewish Agency and the Absorption Ministry.
"Participation of new immigrants in this program is limited by a number of criteria relating to the number of participants (1050), the time of execution (starting July 2009) and other parameters (age, level of education, profession, etc.). As can be concluded from the said appeal made by the families, the program is not applicable to them because of the criteria of time."
The Jewish Agency said, "The said group of immigrants made aliyah to Israel in May 2009 as part of the Jewish Agency project 'First Home in the Homeland' in kibbutzim in the Jordan Valley and finished the program to their satisfaction. Because of the date of their immigration, these immigrants are not eligible to participate in the grant program for immigrants from the former Soviet Union given by the Jewish Agency and the Absorption Ministry that started in July 2009. This program started operating as planned upon the approval of the State budget."