Last week the government approved the aliyah of 8,000 members of the Falash Mura to Israel within the next three years, but a discussion held on Wednesday at the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs revealed the state is financially unprepared to care for thousands of olim.
In a document prepared by the Knesset's Research and Information Center, the Ministries of Education, Housing and Construction, Health and Welfare warned that they require a significant increase in funds.
The Ministry of Health estimated that caring for the Falash Mura will cost nearly NIS 13 million (almost $4 million) annually, not including treating the olim's medical problems, such as AIDS.
The Ministry Of Immigrant Absorption claimed they need an additional NIS 9 million (around $2.5 million), not including the necessary budget needed to fund benefits afforded to new immigrants. The Ministry of Housing and Construction demanded a huge increase in mortgage grants, given to olim for the purpose of purchasing homes.
The deputy director-general of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption said that 35 olim have already arrived in Israel on Tuesday and have been sent to absorption centers.
Haviv Katzav said the average stay of an Ethiopian immigrant in an absorption center is a year and a half to two years. He emphasized that the cost of a grant given for the purpose of buying an apartment is between NIS 500,000 to 700,000 ($137-192 thousands) per family.
"If they don't increase the grants, the olim won't be able to leave the absorption centers and we won’t be able to take in any other olim in their place," he warned. He said that only 2,500 beds are available today out of 6,500 that exist.
Katzav said mortgages are not handed out in neighborhoods or communities where there is a high percentage of olim or where the economic situation is rough. He added that because apartment costs have sky rocketed lately, immigrants can't afford to buy an apartment with the current grants.
Money for Education and Welfare
The Ministry of Education estimated that absorbing thousands of olim will cost around NIS 248 million (about $68 million). This is due to Ethiopian children's demand to study in national religious schools, which not every community has, forcing the ministry funds transportation to nearby communities.
The Ministry of Welfare is demanding NIS 90 million (about $25 million), claiming they are not equipped as far as professional manpower, manpower at local authorities and funding.
A ministry official explained that the olim from Ethiopia are in dire straits. "Nearly 50% of Ethiopians living in Kiryat Bialik are dealing with domestic violence," she said. "We need additional funding for special programs to escort the families: social workers, programs for young kids at risk, special needs aid and more."
No More Money
Officials at the Prime Minister's Office were not forthcoming regarding additional funding.
Ehud Praver, Director of the Prime Minister's Policy Planning Bureau, claimed that all the costs have been taken into account regarding the governmental decision. "This year there were about 1,800 Falashmura olim and next year we expect 2,000 to 2,4000 more. It's not that big of a difference, and the offices are expected to pay for the extra care out of their own budgets," he said.
Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Chairman MK Danny Danon (Likud) stressed that the decision to bring Falashmura immigrants to Israel is a brave and important one, and that the expected number of olim will exceed the amount of olim brought here during Operation Moses.
According to the government, following this last aliyah there will not be another organized aliyah of Falash Mura members to Israel and the entry of those claiming to belong to the Falash Mura community will not be allowed. Entry to Israel from then on will be permitted only on a personal basis, according to the Law of Return or the Interior Ministry.
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