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OEP Project of the Month: "Keshet", Parents of Soldiers and Students without Families in Israel

The best response to the current violence in Israel is continued immigration. Encouraging Jews to come live in Israel, despite the difficulty and danger, demonstrates that Jews are not deterred by terrorism. The Jewish Agency for Israel has taken on the challenge of encouraging FSU Jewry to continue participating in activities designed to promote Aliyah, despite the present crisis.

 

The primary goal of the Jewish Agency for Israel is to encourage immigration and facilitate absorption in Israel. In normal times the process of aliyah is a difficult one for individuals and families. The present situation makes this process even more difficult, requiring new interventions to assist those considering this option and new support systems for those who have chosen to live in Israel.

Aliyah inherently creates social and psychological pressures. Stress factors include separation from family and home, language difficulties, temporary unemployment and adapting to a new and different culture. New immigrants experience a range of emotions including euphoria, excitement, high expectation, great hopes, depression, anxiety, loneliness, criticism and despondency. These feelings are part of the absorption process and come in waves lasting months and even years. Parents of new immigrants, remaining in their native country, often suffer stress and separation anxiety, concerned about their children who have moved far away.

The outbreak and intensity of the ‘Al-Aqsa Intifada’ and the accompanying violent events came as a shock to Israeli society in general, and particularly the immigrant population. Immigrants’ lack of familiarity with Israeli society and support systems in their new homeland magnifies anxieties. These issues and concerns are also felt by the parents who are less familiar with conditions in Israel and are subject to incomplete or biased reporting from their local news outlets about events in Israel.


There are currently some 4,000 male and female new immigrant soldiers, serving in the IDF, without their families living in Israel. The majority of these soldiers serve in combat units, on the northern confrontation line, in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and in other sensitive areas throughout Israel. The continuing unstable security situation is particularly hard on these new immigrant soldiers. It adds to the stress and loneliness experienced in any military service, compounded by all other absorption difficulties.

 

Most Israeli soldiers’ parents see their children on weekends or during Holidays. However, many immigrant soldiers’ parents, particularly from the FSU, are unable to see their children at all during their military service due to the high travel costs involved. Contact with concerned parents abroad is costly and often sporadic.

 

Keshet is a 10-day visit to Israel allowing parents of immigrant soldiers to see their children, integrated into Israeli society, enjoying the freedom and opportunities that Israeli society affords them. For those who have children in the defense forces the visit provides support and nurturing to those who are serving in very difficult situations.

 

In addition to family reunions, this visit often serves as a catalyst for the family members remaining in the FSU to make a positive decision about their own aliyah. Seeing their children’s successful absorption into Israeli society, with all of the opportunities that it provides, makes aliyah and joining their children in Israel a realistic option. The visit is an opportunity for parents to consider the important decision about joining their children and building a new life in Israel.

Parents of these young immigrants (usually between the ages of 40 and 55) often find themselves torn between the desire to join their children in Israel and the fear that their age will prevent them from finding suitable employment in their field. Many parents are unable to reach an educated decision because they lack experience and knowledge of their chances of a successful absorption in Israel.

 

During the visit, participants are provided with relevant information and introduced to services and opportunities available to them as immigrants, including family absorption programs, employment opportunities, academic and professional training. Program participants tour Israel meeting Jewish Agency and IDF representatives while visiting a variety of absorption frameworks. Providing information on aliyah and absorption promotes family unification in Israel.

 

The cost of the program includes round trip airfare from FSU to Israel, meals, accommodation, and program expenses.

Expense

Cost ($)

Round trip plane ticket

from the FSU (depending on the

flight destination)

320

Week in Israel - per parent

600

Total cost per parent

Total cost per group of 50 parents

920

$46,000

A generous donation of $46,000 will ensure this vital reunification program for 50 IDF lone soldiers serving in their new homeland.

 

For more information, contact endowments@ujc.org.