Netanyahu scrambles as program assisting French Olim set to end

Politicians are scrambling after news that a program assisting new French Olim is set to end.

Tzvi Lev ,

French Olim
French Olim
Yoni Kempinski

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke Monday with Labor and Welfare Minister Haim Katz and asked him to examine how to extend a program assisting French immigrants. Katz promised to look into the matter and vowed that he would find a way to continue the program despite budgetary constraints.

Thousands of French Jews move to Israel every year, and a program titled "Community Absorption Model" was set up in 2015 to assist them in navigating Israel's maze of government bureaucracy and regulations. However, the program is set to expire in January due to budgetary constraints and its employees will be laid off.

Last week, Ariel Kandel, who heads the French immigrant NGO Qualita, wrote to Katz and told him that the absence of the program would make life significantly harder for French immigrants, many of whom do not speak Hebrew.

"There are currently some 100,000 French speakers in Israel, many of whom are new immigrants who still do not speak Hebrew, and we need to help such a large population. Children with special needs, women suffering from domestic violence, people with disabilities, youth and at-risk populations, single-parent families, and more," wrote Kandel.

"Until the start of the project, all of these people mentioned could not be assisted by Israel's Welfare Ministry due to the language barrier. This program helps thousands of immigrants and contributed greatly to the absorption of immigrants from France. Canceling the plan is a step backward. I call on the welfare minister not to cancel the plan" Kandel stressed.

In 2016, the Jewish Agency reported that the rate of French Jews, which had reached an all time high to due anti-Semitic incidents in France, emigrating to Israel dropped by 32%, which Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky attributed partly to “high housing prices in Israel and non-recognition in Israel of diplomas” of some French professionals. Sharansky said the Jewish Agency is in talks with the government to solve these issues.

French Olim have problems getting their degrees recognized in Israel because the structure of higher education in France, although on an extremely high level, is different from the Anglo-American model followed in Israel. In addition, 68% of immigrant doctors do not pass the certification test the first time due to the high standard of Hebrew required.