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Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO
Bnei Akiva in financial trouble
World's largest religious Zionist youth movement faces budget deficit of tens of millions of shekels, half of Jerusalem staff fired, educational departments shut down. 'There are some difficulties, but we're a strong movement,' says senior World Bnei Akiva official
The World Bnei Akiva movement appears to be on the brink of collapse: Religious Zionism's huge enterprise is operating at a deficit of tens of millions of shekels, half of the movement's staff in Jerusalem has been fired, and educational activity departments have been shut down.

 

The movement is facing a cash flow problem due to cutbacks in the Jewish Agency, World Zionist Organization and Education Ministry. It did not receive NIS 700,000 (about $200,000) which should have been transferred from the Education Ministry and more than $1 million from the Jewish Agency, and was forced to find an alternative for the money from communal funding.

 

But the movement's donors, mostly in the United States, have been affected by the global financial crisis.

 

"Our situation has worsened, threatening the performance of the enterprise which has been accompanying the State's activity throughout the years," says Knesset Member Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), co-president of the World Mizrahi Movement. "There was a time when the WZO and JA carried most of the burden of the Zionist youth movements, but since they're facing difficulties too, the movement is in a bad situation."

 

Orlev's biggest fear is that the movement's activity will suffer significantly. "Our offices abroad will be affected by the lack of budget and their existence will be questioned. The summer activities will be reduced. I call on the government to come to its senses immediately."

 

The movement's current secretary-general, Zeev Schwartz, will leave office ahead of the Jewish New Year. Due to the situation, the activity in Israel has been reduced and the number of emissaries abroad has been cut. At least half of the employees have been dismissed. Key departments such as training and PR have been shut down until the movement balances its budget.

 

Bnei Akiva is an educational enterprise which has trained many generations: 20,000 active trainees across the world, 100,000 people who have immigrated to Israel following the movement's activity, and 200 active emissaries in 70 main cities across the world.

 

The movement's representatives on the ground talk about a "total collapse". A movement employee told the Kipa website that "the situation has never been worse. The remaining employees are working around the clock to bridge the gaps created following the resource and manpower cutbacks".

 

According to the worker, "The movement will have to minimize its activities. It's a shame that one of the only movements working for Religious Zionism must end its historic role this way."

 

A senior Bnei Akiva official told Yedioth Ahronoth in response, "It's true that there's a cash flow problem and that we need four million shekels immediately, but Bnei Akiva is a strong movement and is not on the brink of collapse. That's a malicious thing to say. The end of the secretary-general's term led to the recent reports, some of which are irresponsible."

 

 


פרסום ראשון: 08.10.11, 08:20
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