November 16, 2010 / 9 Kislev 5771
Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky in appeal to Israeli Government
“We must not make the mistakes of yesterday – Ethiopian olim should be helped to get permanent housing and integrate in Israeli society”
Following the decision of the government on Sunday 14th October to give the Jewish Agency responsibility for bringing the remaining Falash Mura to Israel, Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency, called on Monday 15th October on the government and to all relevant bodies to find solutions so that Ethiopian olim can buy apartments and leave the absorption centers for permanent housing within a reasonable length of time.
“The absorption centers are intended to help the olim in their first steps in Israel and prepare them for life in Israel. We must not make the same mistakes of the past and allow the situation where olim are living there for years. They should be helped to get into permanent housing quickly so that they integrate better into Israel society” said Sharansky.
On Sunday the government decided to bring to an end the aliyah of the Falash Mura waiting in Gondar. The government mandated the Jewish Agency to take over from the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry running the transit camp in Gondar and to close the camp following the completion of the aliyah.
“The government decision is a welcome one and is a brave step. But in light of our data showing a growing problem in housing for Ethiopian olim, we ask the government to work towards completing the process in a way that will ensure the success of this aliya”, said Sharansky. “The Jewish Agency has already made the decision to raise the money for bringing the last of the Falash Mura to Israel and preparing them for life in Israel while in the transit camp in Ethiopia”, added Sharansky.
The Director-General of the Department of Immigration and Absorption in the Jewish Agency, Eli Cohen, explained that there are currently 4,300 immigrants from Ethiopia living in the absorption centers around the country. “If the new immigrants living in the absorption centers won’t be able to purchase apartments and move out to permanent housing, in another year and a half there won’t be room for the additional immigrants from Ethiopia who will be coming.”
The Jewish Agency Chairman also called on the government to find permanent housing solutions for some 1,000 immigrants from Ethiopia living today in the absorption centers who don’t have any housing solution even with the generous mortgage conditions offered by the government. These olim include seniors and the poor who aren’t able to buy an apartment and need to live in sheltered housing.
According to Jewish Agency statistics, most of the Ethiopian olim succeeded over the last decade in leaving the absorption centers for permanent housing thanks to the government’s generous mortgages. Even so, because of the Israeli market’s real estate crisis and rising housing prices, olim from Ethiopia find it hard today to buy apartments and are forced to stay in the absorption centers a number of years. In addition, many cities in which housing prices are lower have already absorbed a large number of immigrants in recent years where there remains no more low cost housing for Ethiopian olim.