Former minister of Immigrant Absorption, Eli Aflalo (centre), with Mario Lev and Esther Blum in Jerusalem.
Immigration coordinators discussing absorption policies in Tel Aviv.
Artists and organisers during the exhibition in Jerusalem.
Representatives from the Ministry of Aliyah and from the Council at the cooperation meeting held in Tel Aviv.
South African Federation (Israel) volunteers visiting soldiers at the Northern front


The Minister of Immigrant Absorption supports an increase in support to immigrants associations

“Immigrants associations are the natural partners of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, they complement its objective to ensure a better absorption package for new immigrants”, says the Minister for Immigrant Absorption, Mr. Eli Aflalo in a letter sent to Mario Lev, Chairman of the Council of Immigrant Associations dated February 15, 2009.

The minister adds in his letter: “I have made my position quite clear that an expansion and a strengthening of cooperation must continue between government offices and the immigrants associations which must be recognised in the budgets supporting immigrant associations for year 2009”.

The letter was sent following a meeting at the beginning of February, 2009 between the Minister of Absorption and Mario Lev, the Chairman of the Council of Immigrant Associations, and the director for the Council’s projects, Esther Blum, at which Council representatives gave the Minister a presentation about the activities of the immigrants associations, their plans and achievements in a range of fields associated with the promotion of the absorption process for new immigrants into Israeli society. At the same time, Council representatives explained to the minister about the difficulties the associations encounter in their everyday work owing to their severe budgetary constraints which have even deteriorated in recent years.

The sympathetic ear the minister had to the problems presented to him, and the contents of his letter to the Council, constitute, for the immigrants associations, a real sign of hope for the continuation and expansion of their activities for the benefit of immigrants in the near future.


A study day for immigration coordinators

On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, the Council organised a study day for immigrants associations’ immigration coordinators. The event took place at the Basel Hotel in Tel Aviv. Among the matters discussed were: the rights of immigrant students in the education system, National Insurance rights for immigrants and cooperation work for promoting immigrant youth.

Before discussing these matters, a comprehensive survey was given by Roman Schneider, Deputy General Manager of the Association for Immigrant Children; Liora Tal, Director of the Aged Citizens and Survivors Department at the National Insurance Institute (Tel Aviv) which focused on the subject of old age pensions, special allowances and redundancy pay; and Michal Carmeli, who presented the Aman Programme, a unique project from the Joint that was established for the construction of a youth village to promote volunteering for community service.

24 representatives of those immigrants associations belonging to the Council took part in a lively discussion, including the associations of immigrants from Latin America, Hungary, America and Canada, Great Britain, France, the Caucasus, representatives of the Jewish agency, and others.


Exhibition by immigrant artists

30 immigrant artists exhibited some of their works at a combined showing that was organised by the Council of Immigrant Associations in cooperation with the Ministry of Absorption and the Jewish Agency at the Jerusalem Theatre on September 14, 2008. Among the artists presenting some of their works were immigrants from the former Soviet Union, England, France, the United States, Ethiopia and Latin America.

More than 300 people were present at the event, including many artists, those involved in culture and journalists. “The purpose of the exhibition is to ease the entry of immigrant artists into the Israeli cultural scene in which they attract insufficient recognition. We believe that this exhibition will help them make initial contacts with cultural institutions and private galleries who will most certainly show interest in their works and talents”, said Mario Lev, Chairman of the Council of Immigrant Associations in opening the event. Mr. Lev thanked the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption for their support in holding the exhibition, and he especially thanked Esther Blum, who is responsible for promoting the Council’s projects, for organising the event.

Roberto Hofman, an artist who immigrated from Argentina and who was, together with Ricardo Lapin, among the initiators and curators of the exhibition, said that the event constitutes not only a significant emotional experience for all those presenting works, but also “a cultural festival for the city of Jerusalem and for the State of Israel”. Eli Cohen, Director of the Jewish Agency’s Immigration Department, mentioned the unique contribution of immigrant artists for all Israeli artists and he expressed his surprise at the “creativity and originality reflected in the exhibits shown”.

From official estimates, some 7,000 immigrant artists are living in Israel, about
1,500 of whom are in the Jerusalem area.


Cooperation in promoting immigrant absorption

At a conference held on September 6, 2008 in Tel Aviv, teams from the Tel Aviv District and Centre Division of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and representatives of the immigrants associations discussed the need to strengthen cooperation and communications procedures between them for purposes of promoting and facilitating the process of absorbing new immigrants.

Within the scope of this conference, an up-to-date review was provided of the achievements and difficulties in absorbing immigrant populations on a wide range of aspects (housing, employment, education, etc.) and principals were set for consolidating future work procedures between the Ministry of Absorption and the immigrants associations.


Solidarity under fire

With the eruption of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, various immigrant associations organised themselves with emergency discipline to help and support thousands of new immigrants living in towns and villages in northern Israel including immigrant soldiers on National Service and in the Reserves.

At the time when residents of Haifa and its suburbs, Nahariya, Kiriat Shmona, Acre, Hadera, Tiberias, Safed, Carmiel, Nazareth and dozens of other towns were suffering daily barrages of rocket bombardment and hundreds of thousands of people were in air-raid shelters, the immigrants associations vigorously banded together to help immigrants with praiseworthy and admirable devotion and generosity.

In this context, we draw attention to the range of activities undertaken by the immigrants associations:

· The recruitment of volunteers and the opening of dozens of emergency telephone hotlines to which immigrants could apply during most hours of the day to obtain instructions, support and assistance in their own language.
· The immigrants associations took upon themselves the task of renovating neglected air-raid shelters in dozens of towns where immigrants were living.
· The heads of the immigrants associations and volunteers, accompanied by psychologists and social workers, visited absorption centres in the north and also met immigrants to hear their problems and to offer active support and assistance in a range of fields such as organising transportation and temporary housing in towns out of missile range, providing psychological counselling for those mentally affected by the stress, offering immediate solutions for urgent family and/or personal problems, etc.
· Raising funds and collecting food for distribution to the needy, primarily those families with many children, single-parent families and the elderly. Representatives of the organisations also visited injured civilians and soldiers at hospitals to encourage them and express their solidarity and wish them and their families a speedy recovery and recuperation.
· During the war, at the initiative of the immigrants associations, special summer camps were opened in the centre and south of Israel to which immigrant children were brought on a rotation basis for periods of respite and recreation.
· Immigrant soldiers in general, and soldiers without families in Israel in particular, were given emotional support from the immigrants associations who expressed solidarity by sending gift packages, writing letters of encouragement and visits by delegations to military bases and border crossings.