It is certainly no coincidence that among the first laws promulgated by the newly reestablished Jewish state was the “Law of Return” mandating that every Jew has a right to return to their ancestral homeland.
Former foreign minister Abba Eban once said: “Zionism is nothing more – but also nothing less – than the Jewish People’s sense of origin and destination in the land linked eternally with its name. It is also the instrument whereby the Jewish nation seeks an authentic fulfillment of itself.”
From biblical times to this very day, Zionism, the national liberation of the Jewish People, has been inexorably linked with aliya, the physical fulfillment of the movement. It is certainly no coincidence that among the first laws promulgated by the newly reestablished Jewish state was the “Law of Return” mandating that every Jew has a right to return to their ancestral homeland.
Today, while some see aliya as a promise which has largely reached fulfillment, or as an increasingly less relevant tenet of government policy, I believe aliya and absorption must remain at the forefront of the Israeli government’s focus.
For this very reason, I am honored to be the first immigrant absorption minister serving for two consecutive terms in the history of the State of Israel. I firmly believe Israel’s immigration absorption policies remain a vital pillar of our nation’s success and endurance and I wanted the opportunity to ensure that for the coming years.
Aliya is a national mission and I am proud to be given the opportunity to continue and even improve upon some of our important achievements of the past few years. In recent years, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry has spent around NIS 20 million a year to bring 74,000 Jews home and fund around 75 percent of all activities connected to aliya and absorption.
These resources have been used in numerous productive ways and we are proud of our firm commitment and constant contribution to aliya, with the help of some of the organizations which we assist such as the Jewish Agency for Israel and Nefesh B’Nefesh.
As a government organization it is forbidden for us to address the issue of emigration with foreign nationals from around the world. However, in 2010, due to a proposal I submitted, incentivizing and assisting Israeli citizens’ return home became a prime national goal of the Israeli government.
The ministry created a unique project for maintaining contact with Israelis living outside Israel – the “Israeli House.” Its main purpose is to offer counseling and guidance for those interested in returning home, and to provide personal support and counseling in planning the return. There are 15 of these centers around the world, with 11 in North America alone.
Since the campaign began, almost 40,000 Israelis have returned to live in Israel, the vast majority of whom came from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and France. Well over 1,000 of these returnees enlisted in the IDF.