Lone immigrant soldiers simply won't stay in Israel after their military service, warned a group of olim students who gathered Sunday to protest cuts to the budget of the Israel Student Authority, which is responsible for providing tuition aid and employment assistance for young new immigrants.
Under the slogan "Abandoning aliya hurts the state," the students called on the government to stop ignoring the danger presented by "closing one of the most important Zionist projects established in Israel," which has been in operation since 1968.
The protesters, who traveled to the Prime Minister's Office from all over Israel – carrying suitcases to make their point – bore signs reading "If you close the Authority, students will be unemployed"; "No education – no future"; "I made aliya and I did the army, what about the promise?" and "I made aliya for Zionism, I don't want to leave because of stinginess."
New immigrants: No studies, no aliya (Photo: Hebrew U. Students' Union)
According to the demonstrators, the decision to cut the authority's budget means that 7,000 new immigrants who receive financial support and vital services for integration into the higher education system as well as into Israeli society, will be left hanging.
Nissim Salame, 29, made aliya from France nine years ago. He served five and a half years as a soldier and officer in the Nahal Brigade. He is currently studying international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and says that the decision to close the Student Authority means that students will be forced to leave their studies because no one will foot the bill.
"Or lone soldiers who finish their IDF service simply won't stay in Israel, because in some countries, (university) studies are free," Salame observes.
Dalia, who made aliya with her sister Dafna four years ago from Uruguay, said that she made aliya for two reasons: "One, great Zionism, and two, because I knew that there were organizations that would help me, support me, and fund my studies."
According to Dalia, immigrant students need assistance because "it's hard to deal with the situation in Israel."
"This is a very difficult, sad situation for new immigrants," she says.
The Jewish Agency said in response that Chairman Natan Sharansky has made a commitment that the Student Authority would continue to receive funding as long as negotiations with the government continued.
The Immigrant Absorption Ministry said that the cost of operating the Student Authority stood at NIS 70 million per year. Until 2008, responsibility for the budget was split 50/50 between the ministry and the Jewish Agency, but three years ago the Jewish Agency began to trim its contribution, until the recent announcement that it would stop its participation entirely.
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop