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Christian-funded Group Brings 83 French Jewish Immigrants to Israel

The International Fellowship of Christians has brought more than 4,000 people from 12 countries to Israel since starting its own aliyah program in 2014.

JTA — A major Israeli philanthropic group with Christian funding brought its first large group of French Jewish immigrants to Israel.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which has an annual budget of over $100 million, put the 83 new immigrants on two airplanes Monday in Paris following a ceremony led by its founder, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

The fellowship said it has given the Jewish Agency for Israel, the semi-governmental body responsible for bringing Jewish new immigrants to Israel, more than $170 million since 1994 but stopped the funding after 2014, when the group started its own program for aliyah – the Hebrew word for Jewish immigration to Israel – in Ukraine.

Since then, the fellowship has brought more than 4,000 people from 12 countries. Its pilot program from France in December brought 17 immigrants to Israel. Eckstein told JTA that his group will bring 2,000 Jews to Israel this year through what his organization calls “Aliyah VIP,” offering the immigrants a one-time grant of $1,000 per adult and $500 per minor under 18, as well as other amenities that bring the total expenditure to $3,200 per immigrant.

The group also arranges trips and activities for immigrants inside Israel, job market guidance, childcare solutions and, for needy immigrants, rent and dental care.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, which does not provide a cash grant or some of the extra support offered by the fellowship, has criticized Eckstein’s organization as creating inequality among immigrants. Agency spokespeople have also said the fellowship is creating a false display because its immigrants are ultimately also processed by the agency, which is the only body with a mandate from Israel to handle aliyah in France.

But Eckstein has maintained the Jewish Agency is not doing enough to support immigrants in Israel, leading to returns to immigrants’ countries of origin and decrease in aliyah overall.

“They’re upset because they feel it infringes on what used to be their monopoly,” he told JTA of the Jewish Agency, adding that he regretted the clash with the agency.

“We just want to get the job done,” he said. “Our purpose is to increase aliyah.”

Aliyah from France has decreased by 43 percent in the first five months of 2016 compared to the corresponding period the previous year, according to the Israeli daily Makor Rishon.

In total, more than 8,000 French Jews immigrated to Israel last year, a record number that for the second year straight made France the largest provider of Jews to Israel in one year. The first time France topped the list was in 2014. Aliyah officials attributed the increase to a mix of factors including growing uncertainty over Islamist terrorist attacks, Zionistic sentiment by French Jews and France’s near-stagnant economy.

Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, attributed the decrease to “a slightly improved feeling of security” by French Jews.

Speaking to JTA during a Jewish Agency board of governors meeting in Paris on Monday, he also said aliyah has been decreasing because of “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.

The bulk of aliyah occurs in the summer, he said, noting the Jewish Agency’s Paris office has more than 9,000 open files of prospective immigrants.


News Agencies and Affiliates

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.727811Schermata 2016 06 29 alle 21.01.09

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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